You’ve got life experience already. You’ve probably been toying with the idea for quite a long time. Now you have to answer the question of how to write a good memoir.
You can set out with the mission of simply writing a book. Many authors do. The authors that end up successful, and by that I mean, write good books that reach their audience, are those who aspire to write a good one. Quality does not come accidentally.
I won’t bore you with words of caution you’ve probably heard before. Writing is difficult though. Even for professionals, the so-called experts, writing a good memoir or book presents a challenge.
Over the course of my career, I have written dozens of books and screenplays. Every single one of them, without fail, has presented its own challenge, either in the character, setting or situation. I have found that the key difference between a professional and someone starting out comes down to the reality that the pros simply have a few more tricks in their arsenal.
If you’ve been wondering how to write a good memoir, here are a few easy-to-understand tips that can help you get where you want to go.
Tips For How To Write A Good Memoir
The first advice I give anyone looking to get into writing is be prepared. You can decide to sit down one morning and just start writing, but that might not be the best path.
Do your homework on the subject, however familiar, before you sit down and write. There is a great deal of debate in the writing world between plotting and pantsing. Plotters map out a story in detail, in advance, in order to get clear direction; a pantser flies by the seat of theirs, making it up as they go.
I’m not going to come down on one side or another (at least in this particular blog). I do believe that it is very important to spend at least some time early on in reflection. If you’re writing a personal memoir, look at pictures, read letters, talk to other people involved in the story.
The next piece of advice I give is to really feel your creative freedom. The blank page can be very intimidating to new writers (and experienced ones, too) and the best way to beat that is to start writing.
I had a writing coach once tell me: “Go wherever the muse takes you.” Over the years, I have taken that advice to mean, let go and just write the story. See where that impulse takes you. However much plotting you do beforehand, give yourself room to experience the magic of creative writing.
Another thing I tell new writers is to avoid seeking outside feedback; at least too early on in the process. Attaboys from family or friends are good to get you started. They help when you’re struggling with doubt. Remember that those people want to encourage and support you. It’s nice to hear those positive things (believe me, you want positivity) but so much positivity can stunt growth.
Early on, I encourage you to write and focus your attention on getting that story down on the page. Those early scenes, chapters and drafts are definitely going to be raw and in need of refinement. Once you’ve gotten the story down and feel like you’ve reached a good place, find a writing group or a critique partner. Hire a memoir writing coach.
Why do I advise going to these people over friends? While the people close to us want us to succeed, rarely do they have the skills to make us successful.
Last, but certainly not least, be open minded to where this new creative journey goes. Even the most meticulous plotters among us deviate from their outlines. The best characters change in their journey onto the page, sometimes quite mysteriously. Sometimes when we start, what we think the story is about is different from what it ends up being.
Creating a story is a dynamic process. Give into that reality.