Tips For Writing Your Memoir

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Writing your memoirIf you have an interesting story to tell, you might be contemplating writing your memoir. As you sit down to start, most likely you’ll realize it isn’t an easy task. Most likely there will be a lot of emotion behind many of the events that have shaped your life story. Collecting these incidents together for your readers will take strength, time, and patience. Knowing this upfront will help you plan and complete your book.

Take a deep breath. You got this!

Many people have reached out to me over the last two decades asking for advice about how to write their life stories. Here are a few tips to get you started:

Writing your memoir takes time

Writing a book isn’t an overnight undertaking. For a professional writer, I’d estimate it will take two hundred hours to complete. If you’re new to the process, plan for it to take longer.

It’s important not to rush the process. Even if you have plenty of time, give yourself some breathing room.

Eight months to a year is a good timeframe for completing a book. Set daily targets and hold yourself accountable for making them. Your memoir will be the better for it.

Character flaws are key

Even if you have lived the life of a hero, you will need to take a step back and look for a few non-optimum personality traits to share.

The reason for this is that the rest of us, your readers who have flaws, will never be able to relate to the story of a perfect superhero. Include the mistakes you’ve made in your life when writing your memoir. Find a few lapses in judgment and delve into them. Anecdotes showing how you overcame barriers and errors will enhance your book.

Humor goes a long way

When an author can poke fun at his or her situation and enliven a story by bringing out its comical aspect, it makes for a more enjoyable and memorable read. While it is best not to make fun of others in your book, there are still plenty of other ways to include humor.

For instance, funny dialogue snippets lighten the mood nicely. There might also be times when you can uncover an absurd moment and then expand on it. Don’t be afraid to shine a spotlight on certain aspects of your life that might make others laugh out loud.

Write and write and write

If you’re writing your memoir on your own, you’ll need to write on a regular basis.

Don’t expect to make much progress if you only type a few pages on the weekends. Great writers write every day. It keeps ideas flowing and the creative pump primed.

Feel free to embellish the details

No one expects you to remember every single little detail of your life perfectly.

For example, can you recall what you had for breakfast on October 20th, 1974? If you’re writing a breakfast scene and want to put Eggs Benedict on the table, go ahead. Your readers will accept it.

The situation is similar with dialogue. If you are writing about an important conversation, your readers don’t care about the exact words spoken. They just want to know the gist of the conversation.

The truth is, even if you have a photographic memory, you will want to change up the words a bit to improve the flow of the story. However, never invent fictitious and unflattering words for a real person you’re mentioning by name. He or she might not appreciate your creativity.

Be honest

Write without fear. Edit without mercy.Although you’re delving into the viewpoint of one character, you, you need to have the ability to pull back from your perspective.

Be objective.

This might mean that you don’t come out as the winner in every argument. And, please don’t resent me for saying so, but you might turn out to be wrong on occasion. It happens! Remember, flawless characters aren’t very believable.

One of my biggest tips for writing a memoir is to be truthful with your readers. It’s possible that they might learn a lesson and avoid making the same mistakes you did. Wouldn’t it be good to know that your book changed the life of just one person?

Read other memoirs

Girl reading a memoirI read a quote today that I loved. It said:

“Reading and writing cannot be separated. Reading is breathing in. Writing is breathing out.” (I wish I knew who wrote it.)

Writing a memoir is difficult if you’ve never read one by another writer. Reading a lot will help you learn about what works and what doesn’t.

You can also learn to spot the memoir themes, which might give you ideas for your book’s theme.

With these tips for writing a memoir, you are ready. Now start writing. Continue to write. Then write some more until your first draft is completed.

Don’t edit, just write.

Enjoy the experience.

Personally, I love ghostwriting memoirs because I get to meet new people and help them share their life stories with others. While doing so, they usually remember new details about their lives that they’d forgotten for decades. And, in the end, they always learn a lot, as do their readers. The process is so rewarding!

Additional articles you might find helpful:

Your Guide to Hiring a Ghostwriter

Interview Questions for a Ghostwriter

How Much Does It Cost To Hire A Ghostwriter?

Memoir Mistakes You Should Avoid

How can I help you?

    6 Comments

    1. Deidra Dorian

      Laura,

      As a ghost writer, do you require a first draft? I want to write a book, but I have trouble finding the time to do so.
      Would it be possible for me to provide you with notes, etc. and for you to write and me to edit? What would your approximate fee
      be for a project of that nature?

      Please let me know.

      Thanks,

      Deidra

      Reply
      • Laura Sherman

        Thanks for writing! No, I don’t require a first draft, but my clients typically send me pages and pages of notes (sometimes enough to comprise a rough draft). As far as my fee goes, I run $20,000 per 100 pages to ghostwrite. I’ll also follow up with you privately to answer any other questions you may have.

        Reply
    2. Sam Seaton.

      Laura you have a gift of writing. Your succinct style and info are beneficial. Yes I have a book I’ve been procrastinating about for years. Please contact me.
      Thank you.

      Reply
      • Laura Sherman

        Thank you so much, Sam! It’s been great emailing back and forth. I really look forward to possibly working with you in the future!

        Reply
    3. Debra Sautner

      Hello. My name is Debra, I am contacting you to ask if you could point me in the right direction as I am lost at how to proceed or where to look in my quest to write my life diary, I don’t have financial ability to find the support I require but I have a powerful true story to tell. I’m 55 years of age and finally at a place mentally where I’m able to face what occurred and I’m strong enough to be honest about each part of it, it’s been in my mind for many years but first I had to accept , overcome and move forward which is what I did. I fully understand that you are a writer and enormously busy , if you could please help in any way I would be so grateful. Yours sincerely. Debra.

      Reply
      • Laura Sherman

        Hi! Thanks for writing me about your story. I would suggest that you read many books that match the style an voice you wish to write, then write a good first draft for your book. Once you do that, you can hire an editor, which would save you quite a bit.

        I wish you luck and success!

        Laura

        Reply

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