Write a Memoir Readers Will Want to Read

write a memoir the right wayPeople from all around the world email me each week with a strong desire to write a 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 a memoir 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 and would be a memoir mistake. 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 to write a memoir

Find your purpose to write a memoirWhy do you wish to write a memoir?

Yes, this is important. You must know your purpose and then you must communicate that to your readers.

Having been a memoir ghostwriter for over twenty years, I can share a few purposes my clients have shared over the years:

  • “I wish to share my story with the next generation.”
  • “I have important information to impart to my readers.”
  • “I have lived a full, rich life and feel others might enjoy reading about it.”
  • “Through perseverance I have succeeded and I feel others can learn from this story.”

Of course, there are many more, but these give you a few ideas.

Now, in contrast, here are some examples of bad reasons to write a memoir. In my opinion, these purposes should be avoided at all costs:

  • “I’d really like to get back at so-and-so.”
  • “I want to brag about how great I am.”
  • “I’m angry at the world and I want my readers to know it.”

Again, these are just a few examples, but you get the idea.

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 off. You have to be honest with yourself here, as there is no fooling your reader. They’ll know.

Find the purpose of each scene

Now that you have your purpose firmly in mind, it’s time to sit down to the first draft. I suggest that you begin by jotting down the summaries of important events that brought you to where you are today. Just a few lines that communicate the incidents 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, remember the purpose of the book as well as the scene that you are writing. If you can’t identify a purpose for an incident, toss the scene. Be ruthless about this. Here are a few examples of a good purpose for a scene:

  • Introducing an important character
  • Showing a turning point in some key aspect of your life
  • Demonstrating an error you made
  • Sharing a realization you had

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.

Uncover your themes

use your senses to write a memoirAs 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 through this process you will discover your messages and write a good memoir.

Another tip is that you must always 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! And if you need help, please don’t hesitate to contact me.

If you’re interested in hiring a ghostwriter, please check out my book Your Guide to Hiring a Ghostwriter.

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

My Ghostwriting Process

A Ghostwriter’s Fee: How Do They Charge?

Great Memoir Themes

Find the Best Ghostwriting Method for You

Find the ghostwriting method that works for you

If you’re looking to hire a writer, you might be curious about the various options. There are a variety of ghostwriting methods I use when helping someone write a book or a series of articles. I select the process based on what the author needs and how developed his idea might be. After all, in the end, my client is my writing partner, and each relationship is quite different. If you’re interested in hiring me, please pop me an email and tell me which ghostwriting method makes the most sense to you.

Ghostwriting Method 1: Your ideas, my words

The most common request I get is to write a book based on a rough sketch or outline of a book concept. The author has ideas, but hasn’t had the time to form the words. After all, writing fifty thousand words is time consuming. It can take over a year.

In this case, I take all the written material my client has compiled and then I interview him or her. After that phase, I’ll do independent research and write a detailed outline. Once my client approves that, I’ll start writing and send pages as I complete sections.

Ghostwriting Method 2: Your ideas, your words

This option is surprisingly rare. Most people who have never written a book don’t know how to structure their ideas or material into a complete manuscript. They also have trouble communicating their thoughts so that others can understand them. And while some are able to write, most don’t have the time, which is why they’ve come to me.

However, there are times when a client has found the time to write but will submit pages to me to be rewritten. I use their words but restructure the flow and fix any other issues the author has been struggling with.

Some clients hire me on an hourly basis to be their ghostwriting consultant. They really want to write their own book, but need a friendly safety net. I’m happy to teach them the process and rules of writing, while encouraging them to complete their books.

Ghostwriting Method 3: My ideas, my words

This option is also rare, but once in a while a client will give me a broad topic and a few scattered ideas, and asks me to provide all the rest of the material. I know it may sound strange, but if the topic is within my scope, I can write an entire book based on my researched knowledge. A few years ago, a client handed me two pages of notes about his great-great-grandparents journey to America. He wanted a fictionalized account of their possible adventures as they struggled to make it across our great land.

In this case, the book still belongs to the client. It always belongs to them because it is their concept and therefore they are the author.

Method 4: Researched ideas, my words

One common request I get from clients is to write a book or series of articles about a specific non-fiction topic. I often know very little about the subject. Fortunately, it’s extremely easy to do research. You can learn about practically anything these days using the internet.

I like to ask my clients to provide websites they recommend, so that I follow their philosophy and can work from accurate data on their niche market. Once I have the starting point, it’s easy to navigate through the rest.


I have twenty years of experience working with clients using these four different ghostwriting methods. I’m comfortable with any of them. Some clients hire me for multiple projects, using a variety of methods from one project to the next. If you’d like advice on the best ghostwriting method for you, please don’t hesitate to contact me!

Additional articles you might find helpful:

How Much Does It Cost to Hire a Ghostwriter?

It’s Good Business to Write a Book

What Is the Difference Between a Ghostwriter, an Editor, a Proofreader, and a Publisher?

Eight Reasons Why You Should Write a Book

Your Guide to Hiring a Ghostwriter

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    How to Hire a Memoir Ghostwriter

    Hire a memoir ghostwriter to help you write your bookIf you’ve decided to hire a memoir ghostwriter to write your life story, you’re probably scouring the internet in search of the perfect person. Find someone with a website that resonates with you. That’s a good first step.

    Once you find a ghostwriter you feel might be right for you, reach out to her. Now, you might be wondering how to broach the delicate subject that is your life story. After all, you’re basically looking for that special person who will be able to write your words for you. I’d recommend starting with an email describing yourself and the project in a few paragraphs.

    Next, set up a time to talk on the phone. The initial interview will reveal a lot and help you make a decision, if you know what to say and ask.

    Learn about your memoir ghostwriter

    During the interview your prime objective is to get to know the ghostwriter. If possible, I recommend that you research the ghostwriter’s background prior to the initial interview. Look for:

    • Extensive experience
    • Dozens of testimonials
    • Writing samples that you enjoy reading
    • A fee that matches your budget

    Once you know that a ghostwriter meets your basic requirements, you can sit back and really get to know the person on the other end of the phone. This is someone you’re going to spend a lot of time with over the next year. Make sure that she is not only a highly qualified writer but that she will also be compatible.

    In addition, spend some time discussing her writing process. Although my process will shift in small ways to suit the client’s needs, there are certain effective actions I take that make for a successful project.

    By the end of the interview you should feel good about the ghostwriter. You should also know that you can communicate easily with her. If she dodges your questions or doesn’t seem quite “present,” I would keep looking. There’s a better ghostwriter out there for you.

    Share yourself with a memoir ghostwriter

    Any memoir ghostwriter you might work with will need to know about you before she even considers taking on a project. Even during the initial interview, it’s a good plan to share important personal information. Just enough so that she gets to know you.

    It’s also important to let your ghostwriter know your purpose for writing a memoir. She needs to know the reason that motivates you to share your life story with the world so she can express that for you. As a ghostwriter, I am extremely interested in my client’s main purpose as I wish to help him or her fulfil that goal. I love it when I can help someone impact the world in a positive way.

    As a side note, if you hire a memoir ghostwriter, I highly recommend that you create a detailed biography to share with her. Even if you’re writing about a period in your mid-thirties, your writer will want to know all about your childhood and school experiences. Though these stories won’t appear in the book, they will help your ghostwriter understand you better. I always tell new clients that they can’t share too much information with me. It all helps develop your character in the book.

    Share the specs of the book

    Share the specs of a book when you hire a memoir ghostwriterWhen you are interviewing a memoir ghostwriter, you’ll need to be prepared to answer a few questions about the project. Since the fee is directly linked to word count, it’s good to have a rough idea of the length of your memoir. An average length book is 200–300 pages. Some are just a hair over 100 pages, while others exceed 400 pages.

    In addition, if you have an urgent deadline, it’s a good idea to communicate that upfront. Most ghostwriters are busy and require at least eight months to year to complete your book. If you’re fine with skipping the editing phase and you have most of the research to hand, this timeline can be shortened quite a bit. Unless you have an urgent need for a rushed deadline, I’d encourage you to allow the ghostwriter to create your book on her schedule. It will come out better that way.


    When you interview and hire a memoir ghostwriter, it should be a fun task. You’ll be meeting someone who will become an integral part of your life for the next year. And in the end, you’ll have a completed memoir your readers will enjoy.

    If you’re interested in learning more about how to hire a memoir ghostwriter, check out my book: Your Guide to Hiring a Ghostwriter.

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