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Writing a Memoir – Things to Remember

Often, the most compelling ways to capture the importance of specific life event is through a memoir.

It is a highly personal thing, to write a memoir. To invite readers into your life and let them experience what you did. Those who do so, and who get their work published, are among the bravest out there.

When writing your memoir try to follow these tips to make it a compelling read for not only those who know you, but also those who will get to know you through your words.

It is not therapy

A memoir can serve as an outlet to gather your thoughts lucidly and coherently. By retrospectively and objectively re-examining an event, you can begin to understand and come to terms with life altering changes. For the writer, this is a therapeutic experience.

However, a memoir is not therapy. If you intend to publish to an audience besides yourself and close family/friends, then it is vital you keep in mind that you are writing for this select audience.

This audience does not want to read long-winded self-indulgent prose. But remember, you are not just writing for yourself, you are writing for an audience, so you want them to become invested.

And what is this audience looking for?

People who read memoirs wish to delve into something vivid and evocative. They want to gain experience to a world they have not seen, or connect to a world they have seen through new eyes.

Remember: an autobiography is always a memoir, but a memoir is not always an autobiography.

If you are writing about a specific event or facet of your life, a specific memory which has affected you profoundly, you do not need to include your whole life’s story.

There should be an overarching theme to your memoir. For example, Niall Breslin wrote a fantastic memoir. Me and My Mate Jeffrey, last year about his struggles with depression and the importance of talking about mental health openly. This is the theme of his memoir and when writing yours, you should consider what you would like your book to focus on: what is the message of your memoir?

What is the purpose?

What is the purpose of your memoir?

If it is about overcoming illness then would, for example, talking about your days in secondary school may not be applicable. Try to focus your work in order to gain more meaning to your words.

Don’t lie

A memoir is a personal thing, and all memories are clouded by personal bias. And yes, facts can be omitted. But make sure your memoir is more fact than fiction.

Take, for example, A Million Little Pieces by James Frey. Frey’s “memoir” about addictions and rehabilitation, initially received critical acclaim for its unflinching prose. However, once it emerged that this was not actually a factual experience of Frey’s, the “memoir” had to be remarketed as fictional. He was taken off book club listings and was plagued by questions on his literary forgery.

Take it as a cautionary tale. Try to be faithful to your story, but also make sure that it is something that has happened to you. After all, you’re writing a memoir, not a novel.

Find your voice

Remember, it’s your story, so let your voice do the talking and let people get to know you.

And at selfpublishbooks.ie, we are happy and proud to publish your memoirs for a wider audience. We have lots of packages to publish your book and read and edit your book, so feel free to get in touch and get your memoir from your mind to your bookshelf.

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