A guide to memoir writing by Andrew Hall
There are many reasons for one to share his or her life story but one of the most common reasons to write a memoir is to share personal experiences, thoughts, ideas and dreams with others, especially those close to you.
Don’t underestimate the importance of leaving a valuable legacy document for future generations. How many times have you wished that your own parents or grandparents had put the significant details of their lives on paper for you to refer to time and again?
One of the most challenging aspects of writing one’s memoirs is retrieving and collecting memories and organizing them into an understandable and interesting story for others to enjoy.
Many untrained writers get caught up in the retrieval stage. Remembering specific events is not often the most difficult part; rather the challenge lies in the process of capturing the sensations, feelings and thoughts that make those events so cherished. But even more difficult for fledgling writers is the process of weaving those stories into a meaningful collection of tales for others to enjoy.
When starting out, it’s best to tell your stories to someone else. Whether it be friends, neighbors, co-workers or the cashier at your local grocery store, practicing the art of story telling by verbally sharing those memories is an important first step toward putting thoughts down on paper.
Don’t stop telling your story after the first time. Each time you tell it, the details will become clearer and other memories may often be triggered, adding depth and substance to your story.
Work on the delivery of your tales. Memories can be funny, sad, insightful or all of these for the listener as well as the story teller. But if the story is not delivered with sufficient passion, it will lose some of its allure. This is an important exercise in getting the story ready for paper.
While many people keep a diary of important events in their lives, most diaries have little or no meaning to anyone other then the owner of the diary. A diary or journal is a good place to start recording events, thoughts and ideas but don’t let this lead you to a common misconception that a memoir is nothing more then a diary converted into a book. This could not be further from the truth. A diary might be a record of events in one’s life, but that does not make it interesting or meaningful to anyone reading it because it lacks the detail and insight discussed earlier.
You don’t have to tell your whole story all at once. Your story is a collection of smaller stories that are threaded together and made more interesting and meaningful as a whole. The sum is truly more valuable then the parts; however, each story needs to be a complete and thorough part of the whole. So writing a memoir one story at a time is a good rule to practice, while at the same time keeping the complete story always at hand will allow you to tie each element together.
Gathering photos, postcards, holiday and special event memorabilia is a productive exercise for stirring up forgotten memories. When you find your memoir coming to a critical junction and can not find a sense of direction, it’s time to pull out the props and start searching for lost memories to fill in the gaps.
It doesn’t take long to sift through some old keepsakes to jar loose those most precious moments in one’s life. And the best treasures are the ones that were lost and then found.
So start telling your story to others and start jotting down notes about important events in your life and a story will start to unfold. If you find yourself unable to bring it to completion you can contact a professional ghostwriter to assist you. I just happen to know a very good one.
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