Everyone has a story or two to tell. As time passes, these precious personal and family memories can be lost. But how and where do you begin? Right here. All you need are your memories, a pen or pencil, and 4-6 sheets of paper.
The following steps will show you how to write memoirs, the personal stories about your life experiences. Memoirs are not narrations of historic events; they are stories about the things you remember because they are important to you.
You’ll learn how to write a single memoir in a quick and painless fashion. You may decide to write additional memoirs, too. And in later articles, you’ll even learn how to turn your individual memoirs into a book you can share with others. But for now, let’s keep it simple.
Step 1 – List several life experiences
Take out a sheet of paper. Think of some significant experiences you’ve had and write down a few words or phrases about them. Some phrases that might inspire you include:
- The time I …
- How I learned …
- Why I don’t …
- Where I found …
- How I met …
Carry that paper with you all day. Whenever you think of one of your experiences, jot down a few words about it. Don’t write the story, just make a list. That’s all. We suggest you carry that paper and think or write about various experience for at least one day, if possible, before you continue with Step 2.
Step 2: Choose one and name it
The truly liberating discovery about how to write memoirs is that you don’t have to tell your whole life story at once. Even though you listed several experiences, just focus on one event at a time. What makes an experience memoir-able? Should you start with the earliest memory? The story you tell most often? No. Choose the third one on your list. Why? We could pretend there is scientific evidence that proves the third idea will be the best, but that isn’t true. It doesn’t make any difference which one you choose. There is no right or wrong place to start. We’ve saved you time by simply choosing number three. Now imagine that experience is about to become a major motion picture. What would the title be? Write that on the second sheet of paper.
Step 3 – List significant details
Under the movie title, jot down some things that make this event significant. Try to list at least six details, in any order they occur to you, such as:
- Who was involved?
- When did it happen?
- Where were you?
- What were you thinking?
- Why do you remember this event?
Step 4 – Write an opening sentence
Every memoir has a beginning and an end. The opening sentence sets the context and tone of the story, and, if done well, has an irresistible “hook” that makes us want to read more.
On a third sheet of paper, write an opening sentence. Write several versions, until you believe you have something that will capture your readers’ interest. Give enough detail to make it interesting without telling the whole story.
Step 5 – Write the conclusion
Your experience probably taught you something about life or about yourself. Ask yourself, “What is the point?”
On the third sheet of paper, beneath your opening sentences, write a sentence that summarizes the significance of the event. You might even imagine your memoir is one of Aesop’s fables by saying to yourself, “The moral of my story is …” Try reducing that idea to a sentence that expresses why
this event was important to you. If you can distill your events down to their simplest ideas as you write memoirs, you’ll find it is easier to tell your stories.
Step 6 – Connect the pieces
At this point you have a title, an opening sentence, a list of important details, and a conclusion. Now it’s time to connect the pieces.
First, re-read the notes you wrote on the second sheet of paper in Step 3.
Next, put all those papers aside. You do not need any of them as you write. Everything you need is in your head, or your heart. You know how the story begins and how it ends. You know which parts are funny or tragic, and which parts are so important that you can’t tell the story without them.
These six how to write memoirs steps gave you a structure to help you get started-now all you have to do is write it all down.
So take out a fourth sheet of paper. Write your title and your opening sentence, and then tell your story, writing in a way that is comfortable and natural for you. Make it as short or as long as you like; there is no minimum or maximum length. Wrap it all up with the conclusion or life lesson.
Bravo! You now have the first draft of your first memoir. Repeat these steps for every story you want to tell and before long you will have a treasure to pass on to future generations. We’ll provide more hints on how to write memoirs soon!
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Nathan Everett has been involved in the publishing industry as a writer, editor, publisher, and publishing technologies designer for thirty years. Most recently he has developed a site where regular people can publish their memoirs. Get expanded lessons and free worksheets at http://howtowritememoirs.com