Ways to Begin Your Memoir

Making Memories

You’ve read the previous posts and you really want to tell your own or your family’s story. Here are some ways to get started.

 Approach: How do you want to approach your project? 

   Look through published memoirs at the library or bookstore to see how others have done it. You can find memoirs of local interest for sale in museums, gift stores, even restaurants. Leaf through such books to see how those authors dealt with their stories. Talk to friends and acquaintances who have written about their lives.

  You can also do an Internet search for online memoirs that you can view for free. This link will take you to a list of 104 sites that legally offer such e-books, free: http://www.techsupportalert.com/free-books-biography .

Purpose: Does your story have a broad-enough interest for commercial publication? Or will you write for a smaller audience? Do you have the resources to self-publish with one of the excellent short-run publishers now available? Or would you rather create a limited number of photocopied booklets for your immediate family or a PDF you can provide to family and friends as an e-book?

Start small: Choose a single topic to explore—your best friend in grade school, your first job, how your family celebrated Christmas. Sometimes a recent event can lead you back into your past to explore related memories. To organize your project, keep a list of topics you’d like to cover, and add to it as you go. You needn’t write down everything that ever happened to you. Long lists of facts, dates, and names will bore your readers, and yourself as well.

Show the personalities, appearances, and mannerisms of the people you mention. Add specific details to set the scenes, using dialogue and sensory details of sight, sound, smell, taste, and touch. If you let readers know the humiliation or sadness you felt at being left out of a game or your delight in receiving a long-hoped-for bike, you will inject vital emotion into your story.

Memories dull with time. Sharpen them through conversations with family members or by reviewing photos and family documents. Find timelines on the Internet, or look up old newspaper files at the library to review what was happening in the time period you’re writing about. You’ll be amazed at the memories and the details that flood back once you get started.
  Remember, life doesn’t have to be perfect to be wonderful. Yours holds the makings of a great story. All you have to do is tell it.

Sharing Memories