Do You Have What it Takes to Write a Memoir?

Memoir Writing - Do you have what it takes?Have you been thinking about preserving your life stories, but wondering if you have what it takes to write a memoir or autobiography?

Most of is geared for people who don’t write professionally and are only hoping to share their stories with family, friends, and future generations. This simple exercise was designed to help answer the question for individuals in that group, however, it may also be useful if you are hoping to publish and sell your stories, but don’t consider yourself a writer.

For the sake of this exercise, choose a story that can be captured in a few paragraphs or pages. For example, if you want to include a chapter on how your first job changed the trajectory of your life, you might pick a conversation or a single event that happened during that time and contributed to that change.

If you are someone who typically tells stories, but you are not sure that you can translate that into the written word, you should try doing exactly that. Call your voicemail and tell the story and then transcribe it or if you like using that speech-to-text feature on your smartphone, let your phone do the transcription for you. Of course, you will need to edit it some, but what better way to capture your writing “voice” than to actually tell the story with your voice.

If you are not a storyteller by nature and are not completely confident in your writing skills, you may want to break your story down a bit before you start writing. Write down your purpose for telling this particular story.

Next, answer the five “W” questions and the one “H” question. (There’s no need to refine your writing yet. Words, phrases, and incomplete sentences are just fine.)

  • Who are the principal players in the story?
  • What Happened?
  • Where did it happen?
  • When did it happen?
  • Why did it happen?
  • How did it happen?
  • For each of those questions, you can decide whether or not it’s important to the story. If it is not, then leave it out.

    Once you have answered those questions, it’s time to start writing. Just go for it with your first draft. Don’t get hung up on anything, including spelling, grammar, or sentence structure. Write it the way it comes to you.

    When you have finished that first draft, read it back yourself without proofing and see how it sounds. Don’t scan it, but hear every word. You may even want to read it aloud. Then ask yourself if it needs more detail or less detail. Is there anything that really isn’t relevant to the point of the story? Spend a little time making adjustments and then let it sit for a couple of days.

    When you return and read it again, you may tweak it a little more and depending on the goal of your memoir project, you can decide what is next.

    If this is a memoir for family and friends, this exercise should have given you a good idea of whether you think you are up for this type of journey. Ask yourself whether or not the “process” of writing this story is something into which you would be willing to invest some time and energy. Even if your writing isn’t as smooth as you would like, if the answer is yes, you can always get help with editing later. Your family will likely appreciate the effort and the stories either way.

    If you are hoping to sell your memoir, you may want to run your story by an editor. If you don’t have someone in your life who can help, you can go on and hire someone for $5 to do a little editing and give you some feedback.

    Although we believe that everyone has a story worth sharing, we know that writing life stories isn’t for everyone. Hopefully, this fairly quick exercise will help you decide if recording your life stories through writing is the right choice for you.

    Even if you decide not to write your stories, don’t give up altogether on sharing them. There are so many different ways that you can share pieces of your life and we hope we can help you find the way that suits your style. Enter your e-mail address below so we can stay connected!

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