Where do I begin with my memoir?

Discussion in 'Nonfiction Writing' started by M_Pruette, Jul 20, 2017.

  1. M_Pruette

    M_Pruette New Member

    I know, writing a memoir when nobody really knows who you are can tend to feel a bit on the narcissistic side of things. But I have a story that I think needs to be shared and I know my experiences can help people. Writing my story will also be very cathartic for me, as well.

    I am lost as to where to begin, though. I have all of these ideas, but I also have a lot on my plate at the time. Too much to get sucked in to writing a book. So, I'd like to start with bite-sized chunks to keep me from getting overwhelmed and just scrapping the whole thing, again.

    Has anyone here written a book, or knows a lot about the process? I'd love some ideas and feedback.
  2. LinJane

    LinJane New Member

    I wish I could give you some helpful advice, but like you, I have the desire to share my story (and have had the idea suggested to me by more than one professor) but have no idea how to go about starting. I think you are on the right track starting with smaller peices rather than trying to go at it as one progressive story. There are writing prompts on line for memoir writing; I don't know if that is of any use to you. I would think that starting with one story that is close to you right now, one that maybe you've told verbally to friends and loved ones that has received a good response, would be a good place to start. Or is there some tangible moment in your life that you can describe vividly that would draw readers into your world? Keep us posted on how your project is going. I'd be interested in hearing about your progress
  3. M_Pruette

    M_Pruette New Member

    Thank you, LinJane, for the response and encouragement. I do have some things I've journaled and even made some video diaries, so I need to organize them. I tend to get a little nuts when It's my own work and I end up taking forever because I put it all on the back burner due to perfectionism and procrastination. I need to stop getting in my own way and just do it!
  4. lmgtfy

    lmgtfy New Member

    Here's my two cents. I think it would be a good idea to find people who want their story told, interview them, and write a short article. Telling other people's stories will help you to decide how you should frame your own. I found a business card in a coffee shop recently for a man who claims to be a UFO contactee, and he was delighted when I asked him for an interview. A good place to go fishing might be a retirement community or any other place where older, retired folks go to socialize.
  5. alfalafa

    alfalafa New Member

    I totally understand where your are coming from. For me, sometimes, my brain churns out so many words so quickly that my hands cannot type fast enough.
    But that is my problem!
    As far as your writing problem and with the way you want to go about it-
    Why not start writing the memoir in a diary format. (Like you are writing your own personal diary as and when it comes to you!)
    In the end you can rearrange and decide what should come first and what should come at the end.
    As to where to start you probably can start from the moment in life where you actually thought writing this would be cathartic for you and build on it.
    Hope this helps.
    Happy writing.
  6. kitnkaboodle

    kitnkaboodle New Member

    When I want to take on a huge writing project, my first step is always reading what I want to write. So in your case, if you want to write a memoir, read lots of other peoples' memoirs! I think this could really help you in finding that certain kind of voice in your writing, and also expose you to lots of possible styles to write your memoir in.
  7. Jsteph

    Jsteph New Member

    How to begin a memoir is simply one and two together, a memoir does not have a way of beginning, it starts with the way you want. A memoir consists of a persons account and story, what you want it and how you want it.

    Writing a memoir has no particular style, the way you tell it and write it is the way you want it to be, if you go through other peoples memoir it will give you a glimpse of how to start. The only to a successful memoir is tell it the way it was and the way it is.
    Rumu likes this.
  8. pigeboy12

    pigeboy12 New Member

    Starting a memoir is a difficult process since it doesn't have a defined starting point. One helpful thing to do is write an outline of the events you'd like to cover, then work from there. The first part of most memoirs is the author's childhood, but if there was nothing you want to cover from your childhood, you can start with something else. The best thing is that since it's your memoir, you have control over how it's done and what to include. Good luck!
  9. Jsteph

    Jsteph New Member

    How to begin a memoir is simply one and two together, a memoir does not have a way of beginning, it starts with the way you want. A memoir consists of a persons account and story, what you want it and how you want it.

    Writing a memoir has no particular style, the way you tell it and write it is the way you want it to be, if you go through other peoples memoir it will give you a glimpse of how to start. The only to a successful memoir is tell it the way it was and the way it is.
  10. Primigravida

    Primigravida New Member

    I think it helps to list down all the experiences that you want to share with people before beginning to flesh them out in detail. Make a quick note of all the things you deem are worthy enough of being read by other people, and then make a side note of how you came to experience these things. Any childhood experiences that may have led to you walking down a particular career path or choice in life? Put it on the appropriate "main experience" as a side note. Any experiences that are caused by a mistake you could have easily avoided? do the same thing.

    When you feel that your list is quite extensive enough to begin writing a short memoir, rank these experiences based on how you want the memoir to be. Do you want it as a progression on how you became the person you are right now? Or do you want your memoir to be lighthearted at the beginning and gradually introduce the stronger and more difficult times in your life, finishing with a resolution? It's your personal preference really, but you have to know your target audience (young adults? working people? teens?), and make your first chapter one of the most interesting experiences that will grab your readers' attention. This could be the difference between someone wanting to read the whole book or just putting it down after the first few pages.

    How you flesh out your entire memoir is up to you. Remember the side notes you wrote? You can make your memoir an alternating experience-childhood memory-experience type of thing. If you want to focus on only one big story in your life, with all the other experiences acting as supporting role to the main story, you can make alternating chapters of progression of story: chapters 1, 3, 5, and so on relating to your main story while chapters 2, 4, 6 being your "backstory" that will make sense of the other chapters of the "main" story. It all depends on what you want to write.

    It also helps to read memoirs of other people to determine how you want to style your book. It doesn't hurt to learn from them especially when writing your first one. You can copy the structure of some good books, but don't plagiarize the story. You can eventually develop your own style after some writing. Good luck.
  11. TheFeral

    TheFeral New Member

    Hi M_Pruette

    I have only recently finished my own memoir after three years of toil and I hope I can help you in some way. I began after being requested for 20 years to write it and started it with rhyming story poems. I actually began with events in my life that people whom I’d relayed the stories to seemed genuinely interested in. Once I got into the swing of it I grew in confidence and it had a natural flow to it.

    After writing a few chapters I joined a writer’s site and got reviews on the work, which helped me a lot and encouraged me to keep going. I then began to put each chapter in order of when they occurred and in turn came up with more material that happened around the same time as the preceding chapter.

    So, my advice would be to just write the things you remember and once you have a few chapters done, then put them in order as best you can. The beginning should come naturally with this method I feel.

    I sincerely hope this helps you and I wish you the best of luck.
  12. username52

    username52 New Member

    Why don't you start with writing the story you're eager to share?
  13. AlsWork77

    AlsWork77 New Member

    I recently completed writing my memoirs but have not published it yet. There was a lot of advice from a few people who have published works, a magazine editor daughter, and some friends who graciously agreed to read the raw manuscript. The sum of advice was to start out with the most interesting part and work backwards and forward from that dated portion. What I did was to give a date, tell what it was that was happening, and then mention that this made me remember that time long ago when my career just started. This, according to the advice, would get the reader interested to start with. Of course, advice is cheap, but hopefully this will give you at least something to compare your circumstances with.
  14. JAnnBowers

    JAnnBowers New Member

    My first thought and advice for you; is to never self-doubt on a story plot. For beginners, if you self-doubt yourself then that will reflect back into your writing style. Next, it doesn't matter if you are famous or not, if you feel your story will help someone else overcome a rough patch in life and be therapeutic for you then that is a good enough reason right there. Now, my suggestion to get started is by drawing up a map of the event. You can do these several different ways, I suggest you find a mindmap app or templates to start the planning. Once you have your mindmap then work on the outline, then start typing away, next thing you will know your book is completed and ready to be edited.

    I wrote my memoir last year, it is no longer available to do editing and revising but my memoir was written very real and raw for I wanted the reader to hear the pain and anguish I had happened to me from the age of 10 until now. I wanted my to teach a moral, a lesson and have value to it. Once I did release i own Amazon, I had received four 5 star reviews but then I pulled it to do more editing, adding new material but then I had to stop writing for about 6 months or longer due to Carpal Tunnel and I still working on it. So take your time and I wish you all the luck!

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