Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Guest Post: Tips on Writing Your Memoirs

Whether you have lived a rough life or had a silver spoon in your mouth, it is normal to want to write your memoirs. This is especially true if you are getting up into middle age or beyond. Otherwise, it could be a pretty short story. Assuming you are ready to put 40 years or more down on paper, here are some tips for maximizing the effect of your finished work.

First of all, give yourself plenty of time for a project like this. You are going to remember things as you work through the memories that are freshest in your mind. For this reason, it makes sense to give yourself lots of time, even as much as a year or more. Hopefully, you have a supply of old photographs you will be going through at the same time. But even if you don't, you can dig out those memories that are buried within.
A good place to start is with a general time line of your life. You may find that you need to make more than one draft of this line, because you are likely to remember important developments that you initially forgot, such as a particular job you had or home you lived in. Start with your birthday and end your time line with now. Pencil in the major events in order.

When you put the time line together, consider laying your paper horizontally, and devoting a whole page to every ten year section of your life. On standard paper, this will give you about an inch for each year of your life. Label the years, and include your age. This should give you room to branch out with new memories as they arise.

It makes sense to write chronologically, but it is not absolutely essential. If you are writing on a computer, there are some programs that make it easier to separate out chapters. If you have to, you could put each chapter of your life in a separate document, and put them together when you get done.

If you are creating your memoirs the old-fashioned paper and pen way, a looseleaf notebook makes a lot of sense. This way you can write rough drafts of various events and change just the pages you need to as you go. If you read anything about good writing, you are bound to run across the principle that good writers don't write; they rewrite. Plan on doing a few rewrites if you want your memoirs to be the most enjoyable read possible.

Another advantage to looking at your life in sections is that you can write about the memories you want to when you want to, instead of having to face everything in chronological order. You can write about boot camp, then about going to Grandma's when you were a kid, and then the births of your children. Add the stories to the folder or notebook section in which they belong.

Don't feel like anything that is important to you is not important enough to include in your memoirs. You can always eliminate unnecessary items later. Include your spiritual or philosophical development along with your jobs, friends, pets, etc. Include those little anecdotes and funny things someone said. These seemingly unimportant memories are what will make your life story come alive.

When it comes to writing style, remember this. Putting your heart into your story will go a lot farther than merely telling the story well. It is usually that personal, heart-felt element in a writer's writing that draws us into the story anyway. Do apply the rules of good writing, of course, but don't forget to write from the heart.

Copyright © Shery Ma Belle Arrieta-Russ

About Shery: Shery is the creator of WriteSparks!™- a software that generates over 10 *million* Story Sparkers for Writers. Download WriteSparks!™ Lite for free at http://writesparks.com. She is also the author of 2 books. Visit her official site at http://sheryruss.com

Download an excerpt of The Authentic Self: Journaling Your Joys, Griefs and Everything in Between below:
authenticself-sampler.zip OR authenticself-sampler.pdf
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1 comment:

  1. Good advice about using a time line and definitely turn the paper side-ways or perhaps 2 or 3 papers or more to continue the line. I like to put the good things that happen in my life above the line and the not-so-good things below the line.