Memoir Writing Tips

If you’re writing a memoir, or planning to start one, I hope you’ll follow this series of articles on memoir writing, and leave a comment about challenges you’re facing in your writing, or share updates on your progress.

Memoir or Autobiography?
Many of the boomers and seniors I teach are working on memoirs. (Only one has written her autobiography.) So, one of the first things we do is distinguish between memoir and autobiography.

Here’s the difference. An autobiography covers the whole of the writer’s life, while a memoir covers only a single time period or a single theme in that life.

If your memoir is about a period in your life, it can cover your childhood, teen years, child-rearing years, or middle age, for example.

If you choose a theme, it can be jobs, or your discoveries of exotic foods, or specific challenges you’ve overcome—say mountains you’ve climbed, or illnesses you’ve survived. It can be anything that has played, or is playing, a significant part in your life.

Take a look at the approach my friend (and fellow member of Chicks Who Write), Maria Judge, took in chronicling her bout with a serious illness. It’s called, “Toxic, Tattooed and Tougher Than Margaret Thatcher.” Her memoir is a fabulous photo essay—demonstrating the options writers have for recording scenes from their lives.

A Memoir is a Story
A requirement of memoir writing that we address in my classes is a memoir needs to be a story, not just sentence after sentence of what happened to the writer or what the writer did.

In upcoming posts, we’ll look at the elements of “story,” including using suspense to keep readers interested.

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