How to Write Your Memoir

Various people email me each week with a strong desire to write their memoir. I love these requests! Memoirs and autobiographies are so important as they record a slice of history. As readers, we can all really benefit from these books in so many ways. After all, when we are given the freedom to step into another’s shoes for a few

moments, we often comprehend life a little better. I know I learn a lot by reading a good memoir.

So, how do you go about writing your life story?

First, understand that an autobiography isn’t purely a list of chronological events. I was born… then I ate cereal on the 22nd of September…then I… No, I think we can all agree this is boring. Yes, you will include dates and it’s best not to jump around the time line like a crazed kangaroo on frosted coco sugar squares, but we need to find the right stories to share.

FIND YOUR PURPOSE

Sit down and write out the summaries of important events that brought you to where you are today. Just a few lines that communicate to you. Trace your journey through these key incidents, so that you can lay out the breadcrumbs that others may follow.

As you identify these segments, zero in on the purpose of the scene. If you can’t identify a purpose, toss the scene. Be ruthless about this. Here are a few examples of a good purpose for a scene:

  • It introduces an important character
  • It shows a turning point in some key aspect of your life
  • It demonstrates an error you made
  • It shares a realization you had

Of course, there are many more, but these give you a few ideas. Now, in contrast, here are some examples of bad purposes, which should be avoided at all costs:

  • I’d really like to get back at so-and-so.
  • I want to brag.
  • I’m angry at the world.

Your reader will be able to discern your purpose easily, and will throw your book away like a hot potato if they sense your motive is self-serving. You have to be honest with yourself here, as there is no fooling your reader. They’ll know.

When done correctly, the various incidents will fit together like an intricate puzzle, a beautiful work of kinetic art. They flow seamlessly. One question that will help you determine whether any particular incident should be included is: Does it help move the story forward? Make sure it does.

DISCOVER YOUR THEMES

As you write the summaries of these scenes down, observe what the emerging themes might be. Consider the lessons you’ve learned, which you wish to impart to your readers. Some examples of powerful and effective messages that I’ve recently seen are:

  • Hard work can overcome many obstacles.
  • Don’t hold on to anger. Forgive.
  • Practical experience is essential for any entrepreneur.
  • Failure is always part of success, if you learn from your mistakes.

It can take time, but you must discover your messages before you can really write a good memoir.

When you sit down to write your chapters, you need to write with honesty. Tap into your emotions and communicate them. Use all your senses to describe what occurred for you in the past. That way your reader will feel what you felt. If you do it correctly, your reader will experience your life as if they had been there alongside you.

Enjoy the process!

If you liked this article, here are a few additional ones you might find helpful:

How Much Does It Cost To Hire A Ghostwriter?

Questions for a Ghostwriter

A Ghostwriter’s Fee: How Do They Charge?

Working With A Ghostwriter – What Steps Should You Take?

I Want To Hire A Ghostwriter, But Don’t Have Any Money…

Usually, I really enjoy talking to people about their book concepts. Some have very good ideas and just need help. However, occasionally there are those calls which frustrate me beyond belief. One occurred today…

I was right in the middle of the second to last chapter of a book I’m ghostwriting for a client when the phone rang. I don’t like to be interrupted while writing as it breaks my creative flow, but I worried that it might be a writer with a question, so I picked up.

“Hello?” I asked.

“Is this Laura Sherman?” the young woman demanded.

First of all, I dislike it when people don’t bother to identify themselves before asking me for my name when they call. Grrr.

“Yes, it is,” I said, letting it slide. She didn’t seem like a telephone solicitor.

“I found your website. I want to hire a ghostwriter to write my book, because I just don’t have the time to write it myself.”

“Great,” I said. That was a common plea. “And to whom am I speaking?”

She paused for a moment, probably weighing the pros and cons of telling me her name. “Joyce.” (Okay, that wasn’t really her name, but I’m a ghostwriter, so I can embellish.)

“Hello, Joyce,” I said. “What’s your book about?”

“My life story,” was all she offered. “I just want to know the steps involved with hiring someone to write my book.”

I gave her a brief overview of how the process works, letting her know it would probably require thirty to forty interviews, spread out over an eight month period. I explained how it takes a ghostwriter hundreds of hours to write a book. She asked a few more questions then got to the big one.

“So, how much will it cost?”

“I charge a dollar per word,” I said. “What’s your budget?”

“I don’t have a lot of money to spend.”

Just what every ghostwriter wants to hear. “Well, how much did you want to spend?”

“I don’t know, maybe a thousand dollars? I know that probably isn’t enough, right?”

“No, it isn’t,” I said. No one can charge a thousand dollars for six months work, not even starving ghostwriters. “Look, I know a few editors who are looking to branch out into writing. If you’re interested in writing a short, one-hundred page book, I could talk to one of them about maybe coming down to five thousand dollars. That’s low, but possible.”

“I don’t have that kind of money.”

“Then you’ll probably need to write the book yourself,” I said. “If you did manage to find someone willing to write your book for a thousand dollars, it probably wouldn’t come out well. Then you’d be stuck hiring someone else to rewrite it.”

She then asked me what would happen after the book was written and I gave her a rundown on what an author needs to do to sell a book, such as creating and maintaining marketing websites.

“I’m not good with computers, so I can’t do any of that,” she said.

“You’ll want to learn then,” I said. “Even if you get a publisher, you’ll need to do your own marketing. It isn’t hard, though. And I can help you when the time comes.”

Apparently, she didn’t like my answer, as she said, “So, how can I find a ghostwriter?”

“As I said, if you’re able to scrape together five thousand dollars, I can ask around for you.”

“But that would be for a good writer,” she replied. “What if I just wanted to find a writer who will do it for a thousand dollars?”

I have to admit I was speechless for a moment. Finally, I tried to repeat that anyone willing to write a book for a thousand dollars wasn’t someone she’d want to hire, but she cut me off and said, “Okay, thank you!” and hung up.

Moral of the story, if you’re serious about writing a book, you will find a way, either by hiring a good and qualified ghostwriter or by making the time to write it yourself.

Additional articles you might find helpful:

How Much Does It Cost To Hire A Ghostwriter?

Do you want to write a book about your life?

Do you need help writing a book?

Working with a Ghostwriter – What steps should you take?

How To Write A Book Proposal