How to Write an Intriguing Memoir


Copyright © 2014 Joan Y. Edwards

Copyright © 2014 Joan Y. Edwards

“How to Write an Intriguing Memoir” by Joan Y. Edwards

A memoir is not an autobiography. It’s a story about related capsules of time in your life related to a theme you choose to relate.

Three Things a Captivating Memoir Must Do:

  1. Captivate
  2. Have a Subject/Theme with Universal Emotional Appeal of Your Readers
  3. Relate to Your Own Personal Experience about Things that May Happen to Anyone

Choose an experience and the best words to show the experience through your eyes, ears, touch, taste, smell, and emotions of the heart. The small details that make you remember an event are the very things that intrigue a reader and helps him relate to your experience. What touches your heart with great emotion either the highly positive or the lowly negative will also touch the hearts of your readers.

The rich and famous are not the only ones who are writing memoirs. Jeff Goins states in his “3 Rules to Write a World-Changing Memoir” that many “normal” people are writing memoirs, too. Since that’s the case he asks, “So what’s to stop you and me from joining them?”

Victoria Costello asks a great questions in 10 Secrets of Successful Memoir Writers: “Don’t the most successful memoirs deal with the most relatable, and therefore universal topics? Think about it…birth, death, loss…loss of one’s mind, child, home, and rebounding from failure.”

Abigail Thomas suggests many two topics/themes in How to Write Your Own Memoir. Here are two of my favorites from her list:

  1. Physical characteristic you are proud to inherit or pass on
  2. When you knew you were in trouble.

A great way to learn how to write a memoir is to read a few of the best-selling memoirs. The work of the masters will show you how to tweak your memoir to touch the hearts of your readers.

What if you don’t know how to start writing your memoir? Are there other methods to get your told? Ryan Van Cleave  in Memoir Writing for Dummies, Chapter One, Memoir Writing for Dummies Cheat Sheet, reminds you that instead of writing down your memoir first, you could record it with a voice recorder, a video camera, or use a ghost writer.

Think back on your life and visualize the parts of your life that filled you with hate, love, joy, fear, surprise, forgiveness, love, and frustration. Brainstorm ideas. Let them simmer in your mind for a while. Jot them down or record them.

If you’re thinking, “I’m not famous enough. I’m not interesting. I lead a boring life.” Think of it in a different way. It is my belief that everyone has an interesting story to tell.  I believe you have a story that the world would like to read. As the Seattle Seahawks, say, “Why not you?”

I wish you success in writing your memoir. Please write and tell me what you think an intriguing memoir must do.

P.S. Rox-San one of my readers, not to be mixed up with Roxanne, another of my readers, requested that I write a post about how to write a memoir. I did this for her and because I didn’t really know what the difference between an autobiography and a memoir was, myself.  Rox-San this one’s for you.

Here are resources to inspire you to write your memoir.

Do something fun today.
Never Give Up
Joan Y. Edwards

Copyright © 2014 Joan Y. Edwards

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14 Responses

  1. Thanks. I haven’t thought about writing a memoir, but this gives me a lot to think about.

    Like

    • Dear Rosi,
      Thanks for writing.
      I’m glad that my memoir blog post gave you lots to think about. If you write a memoir, it would be good for you and your family, too.
      The winner of the Academy Awards was a memoir. Twelve Years as a Slave.
      Never Give Up
      Joan

      Like

  2. Thoughtful and well researched, as usual. Have you written a memoir, Joan?
    I haven’t as a freestanding work, but many of my longer pieces of writing are unashamedly autobiographical, so that probably qualifies.
    🙂
    Bob

    Like

    • Dear Dr. Bob,
      Thank you for writing! Thanks for the compliment about being thoughtful and well-researched. No, I’ve never written a memoir. I’ve written a lot of picture books based on my personal experience, but not a memoir. One of my writing friends suggested I write an autobiography. A memoir sounds like an intriguing way to focus on the parts of your life you want to remember and minimally highlight the negative. Or vice versa.

      I believe a memoir from you would be fascinating, if you feel so inclined to write one.

      Celebrate you and your life
      Never Give Up
      Joan

      Like

  3. Joan,
    Researching memoir writing is right up my alley. Thanks for listing great resources here. Are you considering writing one yourself?

    Like

    • Dear Linda,
      Rox-San one of my readers, not to be mixed up with Roxanne, another of my readers, requested that I write a post about how to write a memoir. I did this for her and because I didn’t really know what the difference between an autobiography and a memoir was, myself. I need to add this to my post.

      I may write one. I’ve got 3 unfinished manuscripts that I want to finalize first.. Then I might consider it.

      I’m glad that researching memoir is right up your alley. Good luck in writing it. It’ll be a great, inspirational one. I know that for a fact.

      Celebrate you and your life,
      Never Give Up
      Joan

      Like

  4. One of my many goal is to write a memoir. Thank you for posting these resources.

    Like

    • Dear Joy,
      Thank you for writing. I’m so glad that I might have a part in helping you reach your goal of writing a memoir. I know that it will be an exciting read!

      Celebrate you and your life,
      Never Give Up
      Joan

      Like

  5. Barbara writes
    Thanks for clarifying the two. I must be writing the memoir, a certain part of my life. And I’m nearly done with a 4th edit, punctuation check. I’ll keep you posted on the progress.

    Like

    • Dear Barbara,
      Thank you for writing.
      How exciting that you have written a memoir. Good luck with the finishing touches.

      Celebrate you.
      Joan

      Like

  6. This is great stuff, Joan! Thanks for writing it. These are all things I learned when I first started writing my memoir. Now I am on chapter three rough draft. I’m just trying to get everything down right now before the famous second draft which will incorporate more of the necessary memoir touches.

    I’m going to look over all the links you provided at my leisure. This post seems stock full of info. All good. 🙂

    Like

    • Dear Clar,
      Thanks for writing. I’m glad you believe this is good information on how to write a memoir. I hope the references give you the information you’re looking for to make your memoir a great read.

      Celebrate you.
      Never Give Up
      Joan

      Like

  7. Thank you Joan! I’m finally back at the editing table and your post is precious. And daunting at the same time for now I will know everything that i did wrong! Thanks again for your generosity, and very best wishes 🙂

    Like

    • Dear Rox-San,
      Thank you so much for writing. You are very welcome for the post about memoirs. I had fun researching it. I wish you good luck with your memoir. I’d love to read it sometime.

      Have fun today.
      Never Give Up
      Joan

      Like

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