How to Write a Memoir: An Easy Step-by-Step Guide by Experts

how to write a memoir

Memoirs are a fascinating form of essay writing that can be both factual and fictionalized accounts. They should always contain true memories from the author's life, exploring major events in their history.

Memoirs often explore major life events, such as divorce or illness. And how these experiences shaped the person into who they are today.

Memoirs are also a good way to share feelings and experiences with others. It is important that you know how to write one well, for it is not just to be an account of what happened but rather a journey from beginning to end.

The best way to share your life's stories is in a memoir. It doesn't just have the chance of being what happened, but rather it becomes an account from the beginning until the end with all those moments along on this journey that make up who you are today

In this blog post, we'll provide an overview of how to write a memoir with some examples for you to get inspired from.

What is a Memoir?

Memoirs are a way of sharing your life experience with those around you. By telling people how it felt to be in the moment. And reflecting on what they mean for who we became as individuals.

A memoir is about your journey through life - realizing that all decisions have consequences, good or bad. Some may seem small now.

But eventually, it becomes very important later down the line; others might not look like anything right away. But it will end up being something great even if there was initial pain involved at first.

A memoir is like writing a book where you bring your memories to life and their effect on what shaped the person you have become today.

Though you're writing a nonfiction book, your memoir should be more in the category of 'fictional' when it comes to style and flow.

‘What are the 5 parts of a memoir?’

The five parts of the memoir are:

  • Theme
  • Truth
  • Voice
  • POV
  • Musing

‘How long is a memoir?’

A memoir should be 60,000 to 80,000 words.

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How to Write a Memoir?

Here are the steps that you need to follow for writing a great memoir.

  1. 1. Choose Your Theme

    Memoirs are more than just a list of the events that have happened in your life. If they were, you would call it an autobiography. What makes memoirs different from simply telling someone what has already happened is there’s always some sort of overarching theme or message to take away. And one which could be applied to anyone who reads them too.

    Planning for your memoir is something that should not be taken lightly. What will people learn from reading about you? This process can lead to insights into how others perceive themselves and the world around them, so take some time before writing any or all of it down.

  2. 2. List Associating Memories

    It’s time to do a little brainstorming. Now that you know the overall theme and message of your memoir. It's important to figure out how this memoir's focus connects with all aspects of your life.

    Memoirs are a powerful way to share memories. If you're not sure where or how to start, there are many areas (mentioned below) that can give you ideas for writing an engaging memoir that is worth reading again and again.

    • Teenage years
    • Job
    • Parents
    • Siblings
    • High school
    • Friends
    • Hopes and dreams
    • Failures
    • Regrets
    • Successes
    • Marriage
    • Aspirations

    You can't tell a good and compelling story without the perfect voice. And as there are so many influences that go into making up who you are, it's important to find just the right tone for your memoirs to create something new and engaging.

  3. 3. Add Other’s Related Stories

    When writing a memoir, it is important to know when your message will be the most powerful. This often means telling more stories through other people's experiences.

    Readers want to see that they are in good company and relate with others who have experienced similar events. This can help them feel better about themselves while reading something sadder than expected.

    What is the most powerful connection an author can make to benefit from the message of their memoir? To show your readers that they're not alone in going through what you have. Others who've been there before, with a similar point of view on things as well.

    Failing to be credible in your readers’ eyes will make them feel like you are trying to manipulate their emotions. To avoid that, it is important to research extensively and consult with people who have similar experiences as themselves.

  4. 4. Tell the Truth

    One of the hardest parts about a memoir is that it tends to be prejudiced and want only good things. It's true; nobody likes an honest critique.

    It’s one thing to recognize your mistakes; it’s another actually to write them down for the world to see. It’s not easy. We want everyone to see us as perfect human beings who never make mistakes or have any flaws whatsoever.

    Therefore, we leave out details about ourselves that are unflattering or flat-out lie if need be so that they'll like us more than before.

    To learn how to write an honest, heartfelt true story, you have to be raw and transparent with your audience.

  5. 5. Add Elements of Fiction

    Think of the people in memoirs as if they were characters from a book. A great one pulls you into their lives. What they struggle with, how successful they are at things, and why so many wonder about them after reading it.

    Take a serious tone and focus on the attributes of their characters. It's essential for readers to feel emotions about your characters - love or hate, something in between.

    One of the best ways to bring your characters alive is by their tone. It has a lot to do with how they talk and behave. The output should be serious for tense or dramatic scenes. But humorous if it's meant to be lighthearted - think about other memoirs you've read that have done this well.

    You'll want to make your story as powerful and enjoyable for the reader. One way of doing this is by creating strong characters they will feel like they know.

    This starts with making accurate observations about how people act in everyday life. So, those thoughts come across on paper - even if it's just in dialogue or through actions rather than narrative description.

  6. 6. Create a Journey

    You should look for ways to connect with your readers and make them truly feel the emotions of a protagonist. This provides an emotional journey that will motivate your reader to read more chapters in your book because they want answers or find themselves wondering about you long after finishing it.

    Not only does this create intrigue, but also tells others what is so special about your writing through word-of-mouth advertising - which every author needs.

  7. 7. Show Growth

    By the end of your memoir, you need to show growth or change in yourself.

    No one wants to read a book that's just about someone else having an exciting time. The reader needs some hope for themselves in it too. They should be able to see their own life reflected back at them within the pages of your memoirs.

    Reflecting on past decisions is never easy, but it can be especially difficult when you're writing a memoir. You have to reflect back on your character’s thoughts and feelings as they were at the time of those events. There is no need to reveal anything that would break the dream-like illusion surrounding them.

    Don’t forget to read your memoir a number of times to make sure it is perfect and does not contain any language mistakes.

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Memoir vs. Autobiography

A good memoir is a series of memories that sometimes happen all at once. A person’s real-life can turn upside-down in the blink of an eye, and to properly document one's story, they have to be able to recount it from their own perspective - even when those events are connected with others.

One event can change a person's life. Many stories are about the morals and lessons learned from that one pivotal moment in time.

Autobiographies are more complicated than memoirs, but in exchange, they offer a richer perspective on one's life. They cover everything up until the author is finished with their story and provide multiple thematic lessons learned over the course of an individual’s lifetime. Autobiography writers aren't just famous people either - anyone can write their own autobiography.

To write an entertaining autobiography, you need to have experienced something out of the ordinary in your life. A memoir is not necessarily about anything extraordinary happening throughout one's entire life. But it can be a profound insight into what it means to live an average sort of existence.

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Memoir Examples

Here are some famous memoir examples that you can read and understand how to write your own.

  • My Beloved World by Sonia Sotomayor
  • Out of Africa by Isak Dinesen
  • West with the Night by Beryl Markham
  • Fun Home by Alison Bechdel
  • The Story of My Life by Helen Keller
  • Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert

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Memoir Writing Tips

Here are some expert tips that you can read before starting writing your memoir.

  • Use a Different Approach

    Your memoir should be as interesting and catchy as a best-selling novel. When you share your life story, recreate scenes to build suspense with dialogues that are believable but not dry or dull.

  • Importance of a Good Beginning

    To make it compelling for the readers, don't start from the beginning of your story. Don't share events chronologically; rather, pick something that happened in the middle and tell them about how you felt when that event took place.

  • Use Fiction Writing Techniques

    Your memoir should be just as compelling and captivating as a fiction bestseller. You may not have the same benefit of made-up characters. But you can still use techniques found in novels to keep your readers on their toes. Re-create scenes with dialogue to build suspense.

    A memoir is a personal, non-fiction story of a writer’s life. It can be written from different perspectives and in varying book lengths depending on the writer’s goal or purpose. It may even include photographs or other media to enhance its authenticity.

    Memoir writing requires reflection on the human experience as well as creativity when developing themes, characters, dialogue, and plot structure. It requires a lot of time to write a great memoir with some great advice for its readers.

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