Writing a memoir sounds like a fun way to toil away the winter, doesn’t it? More than that, a compelling memoir can truly take readers on a journey and become a work that sticks with a person and which they think of often. If you’re contemplating writing your own memoir, the chances are that you’ve read examples of this genre in the past that has cast a spell over you and allowed you to become completely absorbed in someone else’s story. It is true that memoir is an extremely broad term and that each one will draw on unique elements to succeed, but there are nevertheless some common elements that can help guide you. Let’s take a look at a few ways to approach the task.
Don’t mistake memoir with autobiography
The first thing you need to do when setting out to write a memoir is to narrow down your focus, so you’re able to discern a concrete theme or set of themes. The goal here is not to provide an overview of your entire life but rather to zero in on a particular experience or series of experiences that are connected to the same subject. You’re sharing just a little slice of your life story, but ideally, you’ll cover it with the depth necessary to make your readers feel that they have a much better understanding of who you are.
Situate your story within a broader context
Of course, when writing a memoir, you’re going to be at the center of the story and take up the most page space. That doesn’t mean you should leave everything else out. Including interesting or relevant details about where your story takes place, the people you interact with along the way, and how your thoughts evolved will allow more readers to relate to your story. Vivid details and backstory will go a long way to ensuring your memoir has the intended impact.
Resist the temptation to exaggerate or gloss over sticky parts
Writing a memoir requires a great deal of bravery and self-assurance. If you’re not ready to be fully honest and genuine in relaying the events of your life, now might not be the time to commit your story to paper. Telling the truth about the people in your life (especially those you love) can be tricky business. That being said, it is the only way to approach this genre authentically.
Show, don’t tell
This is solid advice to apply to most writing endeavours, but it is essential when writing a memoir. Your readers will only be able to relate to you if you give them the chance to draw their own conclusions about your experiences, rather than simply asking them to take your word at face value.
Demonstrate your growth
A key component of any successful memoir is a demonstrable level of growth or transformation. If an experience or series of life events were so impactful that you’ve decided to write a whole book about them, you’d best be able to convince your reader that you learned something or were changed in some way.
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