How to Write a Memoir

How to Write a Memoir: Writers, Start Your Memories


Writers sometimes feel a sense of isolation. The art of creative writing can be a lonely craft when writers don't have support systems or author communities toward which they can turn. Writers sometimes face the question, why should anyone read my work? While this thought can be pervasive—and persuasive—every voice has something new to add to both the world and to the world's collection of literature.


Memoirists often ask the question, “Why would anyone read about my life?” According to the Memory Writers Network, the answer is simple: each life provides readers with a single presence. Start writing and as your story develops you will gradually improve your understanding of your relationship to your future audience.


The Chronological Memoir: The Story of a Long Life

If a writer is nearing old age, has led a long, wild life and has stories to tell, then by all means a memoir would be a great option. If the story calls for it, or if a writer feels more organized writing in a linear fashion, a chronological memoir may be the best option. Writing about one's childhood, adolescence, adulthood and present life may present a story with which readers can grow.


The Vignette Memoir: Writing in Snapshots

Maybe the sort of memoir that a writer feels will work is one in which the story is told in snapshots. The story can jump from a pre-teen birthday party to the writer's second wedding. So long as there is a main thread throughout the story, each mini-story (a vignette) can add up to the collective vision. This allows the author to only write about certain memories without following a linear path.


Experience-Oriented Memoir: Telling a Single Tale

Some of the more common themes found in memoirs are pivotal events. These could include overcoming or dealing with sickness, a disastrous event, a summer vacation, overcoming addiction, recovery, war or any single experience. Writing about an experience at length will not only reveal who the writer is as a person, the story will draw on many other experiences and incidents that happened in the writer's life.


Coming of Age Memoir: A Specific Era

Writers often find it healing to write about their coming-of-age experiences. This allows the writer to look back on a fundamental time during which they grew up, changed, faced the world, confronted real problems and found themselves. These stories appeal to readers of all ages, since everyone feels a connection to their own coming-of-age time. And who knows? Perhaps a coming-of-age story doesn't have to fit a specific mold. It could be a metaphorical or spiritual coming-of-age tale. It is up to the writer—and the imagination.