Writing a memoir is one of many ways that an individual can share related experiences or to chronicle a life in a more creative way.
Just as with any lengthy piece of writing, there are some things that writers need to keep in mind while preparing to write a memoir and throughout the writing process. This will not only make the writing process easier and more enjoyable, but will also make the revision process easier for the writer.
Finding the Story in a Memoir
Writing a memoir is writing a story but with the author as a character. It is the writer’s story, but that does not mean that a memoir, which is nonfiction, can exist without a plot.
This may mean sitting down and trying to figure out, in a sentence or two, what the memoir is about. If the point of the work can be described to a curious person in a sentence or two, then the story has a plot and a point. If not, then there isn’t a clear story to the memoir.
Even though a memoir is the writer’s story, authors still need to convince an audience that this is a story worth caring about. When looking for a story, try to find the significance of this event, series of events, or lifestyle. Otherwise, a reader may not understand why this memoir was written in the first place.
Developing a Memoir’s Plot
After deciding on the memoir’s story, a writer must next make a decision as to what is relevant to the story, and what events happened around the same time as the narrative but are unrelated to the story that the writer wants to tell. For example, if an author wants to write a memoir about being a missionary in Latin America, the author’s dog at home getting a new collar is not an event that is necessarily relevant to the story of being a missionary.
As an author writes the memoir, it may become more clear as to which events and experiences are relevant to the story being told and which are not. Some episodes that may not be major, such as going to sleep at night, can be used later on as creative devices to reflect on the major events that have occurred or are occurring within the context of the narrative.
Finding the Appropriate Voice in a Memoir
The voice, or tone of the writing, in a memoir is important. This is how the reader will interpret the author’s writing and will use the tone of the prose to determine whether the narrator is being serious, sentimental, comic, or sarcastic.
Finding the appropriate voice may be difficult at first. However, a writer needs to keep writing in order to discover the appropriate and best voice for a particular memoir, and this sometimes may take a significant number of pages before it happens. Earlier pages can be saved; after finding the voice of the memoir, writers can go back and revise the material to fit the voice that the memoir needs to take on.
Writing a memoir can be a rewarding project to complete, despite the task of putting one’s life experiences on paper being an emotionally intimidating task. After sorting out the basics of a memoir, the task of writing the work can come easier to writers of varying levels of experience.