1. BogLady

    BogLady Active Member

    Joined:
    Apr 12, 2017
    Messages:
    150
    Likes Received:
    114
    Location:
    Cloquet, MN

    How to write a memoir?

    Discussion in 'Non-Fiction' started by BogLady, May 10, 2017.

    I have started pulling things together for my memoir.
    I have had quite a few false starts and am having trouble bringing things together cohesively.
    First I pulled all of my potential subject/topics together trying to determine exactly which topics or direction to take.
    Working chronologically isn't working for me, so I jumped to just picking one subject or topic and writing. I am not sure I like the way it is going. Everything seems just a bit to much "history book" and I am not sure anyone would want to read that. I also tried writing from the perspective of myself at a given age (this sample is in another thread) and that didn't turn out well either.

    What have others found to be a good way to get started? Do you work in first person, third person...?
    Do you include conversations, even though these would be old memories and not exactly accurate? I know once I got the ball rolling, I would fly, just need to get going.
    I should also go back and read a couple of memoirs I really enjoyed to see how they did it.
     
  2. Siena

    Siena Senior Member

    Joined:
    Jun 3, 2012
    Messages:
    341
    Likes Received:
    87
    It's really a layout/rollout question, as you've got the story/content already.

    The process is the same: start with the Ordinary World etc, work through the character change etc. Use the journey and change model.
     
  3. BogLady

    BogLady Active Member

    Joined:
    Apr 12, 2017
    Messages:
    150
    Likes Received:
    114
    Location:
    Cloquet, MN
    Thank you, I will have to look up exactly what the Journey and Change Method is.

    I have also just started reading Marion Roach Smith's book " The Memoir Project" and I think I am coming around to the theme of the memoir. I recently started a family genealogy project and this would tie in well with memoir.
    It would be great if it eventually were published but I want it for my children, grandchildren, brothers and sister.
     
  4. Shadowfax

    Shadowfax Contributor Contributor

    Joined:
    Aug 27, 2014
    Messages:
    3,428
    Likes Received:
    1,992
    Include conversations, even though your memory of them is hazy? Absolutely. You're not testifying under oath, you're telling a story. As long as you give Aunt Kathy that cantankerous, cynical tone that everybody in the family knows she's got, you're good.
     
  5. Stuart B

    Stuart B Member

    Joined:
    Sep 20, 2016
    Messages:
    78
    Likes Received:
    45
    I'm also working on a memoir at the moment. Mine is about my life in The Netherlands as an accident prone Englishman. Similar to what you are describing I had a lot of false starts too.

    My main problem was I got into editing way too early. A lot of the book is based on posts I've already written on my blog. Rather than making sure I had the whole book in a first draft before I did anything else I fell into the trap of editing the old posts first. The whole time I was doing this things felt wrong. The posts that were being turned into chapters felt disconnected. I still had large gaps in the story (the stuff I'd not written posts about) and I was not sure what direction I wanted to take some of it.

    It's only now that I've been able to accept that its ok for a first draft to be bad that I've managed to get my head out of editing mode and get into the just get it done mode. The best thing about that is it has free-ed me up and as I write now things start to fall together. I know once I have it all in a rubbish first draft I'll be able to see the thing as a whole, see what needs changing, fix it and make it good. It really helps.

    I used to jump around in my writing which helped me focus on one part of the book but I realised over time that it making it too easy for me to ignore the parts I had to make decisions about. Now I focus on one chapter at a time, getting it to a first draft state and it's working a lot better for me. The gaps and the unknown parts are starting to get filled in which is making it easier for me to see the thing as a whole and what is and isn't working.

    And to answer your question on dialog; Yes, you should have it. I've been specifically told by a publisher that I needed more dialog. And it is fine if it is not accurate. I'd even go as far as saying don't be afraid to change it a little to make it flow better and be more entertaining. As Shadowfax said, you are not under oath.

    I hope this helps.
     
  6. matwoolf

    matwoolf Banned Contributor

    Joined:
    Mar 21, 2012
    Messages:
    6,807
    Likes Received:
    10,127
    Location:
    Yorkshire
    I generally turn it to fiction.

    Othertimes, and watch out for this - but once a story's down on paper I lose the original, the recollection - replaced by the 'new authorised version.'

    The popularity of memoir confuses me. Guru's always insist on 'hook' in fiction, but in memoir you can garner an audience being entirely esoteric. Charlie's War, case in point, a sixty-five year old man in 1940, caught the train to work, kissed his wife and gardened on Sundays, a best-seller and very soothing read, if not very exciting.

    [trial usage of esoteric. although I say it all the time, mainly]
     
  7. Alex R. Encomienda

    Alex R. Encomienda Contributor Contributor

    Joined:
    Jan 12, 2016
    Messages:
    649
    Likes Received:
    249
    I attempted to write a memoir for a literary journal but as I was writing, I realized it didn't feel very good. I don't think I'd want people to read about my thoughts and feelings during a certain time. Especially family; they'll be like oh, that's what happened there! That's why he didn't do this and that.

    Memoirs, to me, are very mentally driven. It's supposed to take you back to that time and relive what you thought/felt. If it's a good time, great! If not, prepare to take that dreaded stroll down Remedy Lane.
     

Share This Page

  1. This site uses cookies to help personalise content, tailor your experience and to keep you logged in if you register.
    By continuing to use this site, you are consenting to our use of cookies.
    Dismiss Notice