Thursday, December 3, 2009

Advice for writing a memoir

I was talking to my 20-year-old nephew Alex recently. He’d been to Disneyworld in Florida and had taken my memoir, Sober Truths: The Making of an Honest Woman, with him to read. We had an interesting conversation about it. He said that in the beginning, it was like reading about a stranger, someone’s childhood. But when I started talking about my young adult years, he could really relate. I asked him if I seemed the same person to him in the book as I am with him in person and he said yes. Somehow I was really pleased by that for I had not wanted to create a fictional persona for my memoir, but to be myself.

All of us have a story to tell. We don’t all need to publish them but our friends and families would love to read them. And writing down stories about our life experiences is a great gift to future generations, who will see what it was like to live when we did (differences) and that we all have the same things that make us happy and sad and angry (similarities).

Here are some ideas to get you started if you’re interested in writing some memoir pieces from your own life:
Find a supportive writing group and/or writing coach to help you with your process.
Make a list of 50-60 pivotal moments and experiences in your life.
Write these experiences as scenes with visual and sensory detail, dialog, and action.
Take those initial drafts and flesh them out into robust experiences for the reader. Remember readers don’t want to read about your experiences, they want to experience them with you.