Have you ever thought about recording your life story for your children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren to know? Whether capturing it for your family or a wider audience, writing a memoir is one way to ensure you and your story are remembered.
Below are a few tips I’ve picked-up over the years as a Video Biographer that have helped me stay organized and on task when capturing a client’s story. Perhaps you will find a few helpful as you write your memoir.
~ Tips on How to Write a Memoir ~
To start, I divide the process into three stages: 1) Planning or Pre-Production 2) Content Gathering or Production and 3) Editing or Post-Production. Below are tips for each stage.
- Know your Audience
Are you writing a Memoir for your family and descendants? If so, think about what you would want to know about your own grandparents and ancestors. What stories, information, delivery style, tone and so on would resonate with you? If your audience is the general public or your peers on the other hand, consider their perspective.
- Identify your Goals
What will your memoir cover? Will you include your entire life story or focus on a specific theme throughout? Will you include family history and life lessons? Write your goals down to help you stay focused during the editing process.
- Set a Timeline
Do you have an end date in mind for presenting your memoir to your family or sending it on to a publisher? If so, work backwards from the date and set monthly, weekly and daily writing goals. Be sure to include time for breaks as you’ll discover it’s important to set it aside on occasion.
- Create an Outline
An outline will keep you organized, focused and make editing more manageable. Start by identifying general categories (childhood, young adulthood, career, etc.), then add sub-categories and then sub-categories under those. Expect to modify the outline throughout the editing process.
2. Gathering Content
- Write, Write, Write
It’s time to let your thoughts and stories flow. Be sure to keep a notepad or voice recorder handy since memories surface in their own time. Leave one on your nightstand, in your car, kitchen, etc. Do not edit at this point. Just write.
- What to Include
Wondering what stories and information to include in your memoir? Check out these two articles: ‘The Stories That Bind Us’ by Bruce Feiler, NYT. and ‘The Power of Myth: The Benefits of Sharing Family Stories of Hard Times’ for guidance.
- Memory Triggers
Having difficulty remembering? Memories can often be recalled by stimulating your senses. Review old journals or diaries, photo albums, year books and family movies. Drive through your old neighborhood. Dig through boxes you may have packed away that contain objects from your past. You’ll be surprised at what you remember.
- Visual Elements
Gather photos, documents, maps and other memorabilia that can enhance your stories. Visual elements will add dimension and connect you audience with your experience in a way words may struggle to do.
- Stay Organized!
As you gather content, be sure to label and file the material under the appropriate category in your outline. Organizing now will help enormously when you are ready to edit.
As tempting as it may be to include every life experience, your audience will find it overwhelming. Instead, identify the stories that support your goals and then rank each by importance. Not only will your content become more manageable but you will start to see themes and patterns emerge, helping you become a better storyteller.
- Stick to your Timeline
While it’s important to stick to your timeline, it’s equally important to schedule daily and even weekly breaks. Writing an autobiography is a huge project and giving yourself time to clear your head will keep you from feeling overwhelmed.
- Stay Focused
As you write your memoir, refer back to your outline, goals and audience perspective often. I find it helpful to alternate between the details of a specific story and the broader story as a whole.
- Outside Input
It’s never easy to have an outsider critique work you’ve poured your heart into but a fresh pair of eyes can help identify weak spots. Ask a friend, family member or even a stranger their thoughts and what could be improved upon. While you may not agree, it will provide some valuable food for thought.
Need a little help writing your memoir? Consider taking a local or online class, working with a writing mentor or joining a writing group.
Writing a Memoir requires a great deal of time and energy. I hope my tips on How to Write a Memoir will make your process a bit easier.
If you have tips to add, post them in the comment section below for others to see.
~ Legacy Videos ~
Capture your life story, family history and memories for your children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren to know.
Here at Family Line Video we produce Legacy Videos, modern-day memoirs that weave a filmed interview together with family photos, documents, maps and other memorabilia. The result is a beautiful “moving portrait” capturing you recounting your life story and memories – a gift your family will treasure for generations to come.
To learn more about capturing your life story in a Legacy Video, visit FamilyLineVideo.com.
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~ How to Write a Memoir ~