Why write a memoir?
A memoir draws on selected stories about your life to support a focus or a theme.
Perhaps you have a personal story of migration, grew up in a dysfunctional family, been a victim of abuse, had drug or alcohol issues, overcame significant physical or mental setbacks, financial or emotional crashes. You could discuss how things were for you then and how you over came the issues. Your story of change and transformation.
Your story will assist others going through similar situations. Create a blue print of sorts how to rise up and meet life.
Linda Joy Meyers wrote in her excellent bestselling book The Power of Memoir How to Write your Healing Story that a memoir assists the writer to gain understanding for your life and heal the past and hope for the future. And to expose injustice or abuse. I would highly recommend her book available on Amazon. (My copy is battered from constant use.)
Memoirs are highly sought after at the moment and are big sellers. You don’t have to be a celebrity to sell your memoir.
Check out Amazon Kindle books on memoir and see the variety of memoirs that are selling well.
In further blogs we will cover making money from your memoir.
Herodotus said a long time ago “A Novel is a mirror walking down the road.”
A memoir is a mirror to your life. This reflection of your life can encourage reflection and deepen understanding.
Isabella Allende said “Be careful. Minatours lie in wait in the labyrinth of memory.” A warning us that we can uncover unpleasant issues that have been hidden.
Tips for writing your memoir
1. Explore the central aspect of your memoir, is it transformation, is it righting wrongs?
Don’t worry if others have written about the same issue, your experience is unique and can bounce off others that are similar.
Set a clear parameter which years say 10 years, or which area of your life you will focus on.
This is not a story of your whole life. That would be autobiography.
A memoir focuses on an area that has many anecdotes or stories.
Select stories that further your focus or theme.
2. Write the memoir with the best of creative writing process.
Show don’t tell. Showing – creates a mental picture in the readers mind,
Telling is bland and boring. E.g. He was very angry
Reveal characters by what they say, think, description, what others say about them and how they react.
Use dialogue- of course the dialogue will be general, you use quotation marks but cannot vouch for the actual words.
Use environment to create the mood, night morning, at the beach, on a roof top. Describe it.
Use sensory language- use senses such as sound, taste, touch, sight, movement.
Be specific not vague.
Use few strong adjectives. Too many adjectives destroy the flow.
Use nouns that work- not dog, but Welsh corgi.
Try to avoid adverbs they weigh the writing down. E.g. “she spoke nervously.”
Let your scenes unfold in real time.
Don’t tell what a person feels- show.
Don’t tell the weather- show the rain pounding on the window.
3. Don’t paint people as demons and totally negative.
They have good parts and bad. Explore both.
4. Don’t brag about yourself
One of my favourite memoirs is Dispatches by Michael Herr ( 1977.) Available on Amazon.
Dispatches is a powerful collection of story on the Vietnam War.
Michael Herr was a writer who spent a year following American marines and army in Vietnam. Where they went he did also, the jungles and the cities, the helicopter carrying dead soldiers.
His account is authentic and he narrates the troops in damp bunkers, getting stoned.
His writing has a compelling sense of urgency.
Is compelling in its accuracy and is part of a historical record of the times.
He speaks for the soldiers, they keep asking him to write about certain situations.
Michael Herr mixes humour with madness and is open about the drug use of the soldiers and himself.
Reading his book is unsettling; you are caught right in the action and the despair of the soldiers. His language is based on real time.
The small details riveting.
Another best seller memoir is Mary Karr’s brilliant memoir titled Lit .( She also wrote the bestselling The Liar’s club.)
In Lit she personalises her slide into drunkenness, her life descends into chaos. But Lit is also about getting sober and learning how to live. Her honesty and authenticity moves the reader.
Mary Karr suggested that personal memory is like a pinball that ricochets through time.
Other great Australian memoirs include:
Sydney Smith’s The lost woman. Her book details a issues about her malignant family.
Jo Case Boomer and me. Leo is diagnosed with Asperger’s syndrome
A little about my memoir Calel
My memoir is about my much loved mother who was an extraordinary woman who also suffered from mental illness.
Here is the prologue of my memoir.
“When our family lived in Springvale, my Mother
owned a textured rug of black and yellow. It had
interlocking geometric shapes, was oblong in size
and had black tassels around its edges.
My Great Grandmother made the rug. She washed, carded,
and spun the wool that was shorn from her own
sheep. The yarn was coloured by mineral and
vegetable dyes, then spun by a hand spindle and
woven using a wooden loom.
The rug became part of my grandmother’s
dowry, which was handed down to my mother.
This small woven rug had a life of its own,
moving around our home. Sometimes it was found
draped over the sewing machine; another day
arranged at the back of the divan in the lounge. It
would disappear into the linen press for weeks and
then appear on the coffee table.
“Calel,” Mother said. This was her pet name for
me when she was happy with me.
“This is the one piece of Mytilene that I still
I never knew the significance of that statement
until I was older.”
In the previous blog I suggested you write 300 words about an incident in your life.
If you did do the exercise I wonder how you felt?
What went well or not so well for you?
Did you pick a 10 year period to concentrate on?
Some people use cards to jot down ideas.
If you have a diary of the time, reread it to assist you to remember.
I suggest you write every morning to create a habit.
What are you waiting for?
Are you working on your memoir?
Share with me any comments.
I would love to hear from you.
Thank you for coming to my blog.