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How to Write a Memoir – First Steps
Here are a few common questions people ask when thinking about writing a memoir, followed by a few quick tips to help you get started.
What events or time periods do I write about?
In choosing the focus for your memoir, you want to choose something in your life that you can write about with authority and honesty. You also want an event or time period in your life that taught you something or brought you a healing. This way you can bring a new understanding or healing words to your readers.
What is the best way to put down my ideas?
Today, we have several options when it comes to writing a book. First, you can simply write it out either in long hand or type it into your computer. Many people today are busy and don’t have hours of free time and so they opt to use a recorder that uses a USB plug that connects to their computers.
This way, they talk their ideas out, then plug the recorder into their computer and the recorded sessions are downloaded into a file for them. Next, they either type the recorded information out or hire someone to transcribe it from the recordings.
Another option is to hire a ghostwriter to do the writing and editing for you.
Where do I begin?
Once you have your focus narrowed down, you can actually begin anywhere. Some people can start at the beginning of an event or experience and simply write it out in chronological order. Most memoirs are not written in that way, however, it is an easy way for many people to get the information out of their heads and onto paper.
Another idea, is to start with the most vivid memory you have that is within the focus of your memoir and write that out. Put it in a file folder or a folder on your computer. Then, write out the next most vivid memory. Use this method to work through all your memories to get them out and down on paper. Once you have it written out in either form, you can begin to organize your content, prioritize, cut, and assemble it into a finished book.
Take your time in the process of getting the information out of your mind and onto paper. Don’t rush this step. Record all your memories with as much detail as you can remember. Add conversations that you recall. Intersperse your feelings. Describe your surroundings and the places you are. Portray the people you are interacting with.
At this early stage, don’t worry about putting it in book format. Don’t worry about punctuation or spelling. Let yourself remember accurately and record it as best you can. Be sure to add in details you might not think you will include in the book to be sure you are able to put down as much information as possible.
Give yourself a few months at least to complete this essential beginning phase of your book. The more you pour yourself and your true memories and feelings into this part of the writing process, the better your memoir will be in the end.
It is important to organize what you are writing as you go along. Otherwise, you can spend a lot of time later trying to remember where you wrote what. An easy way to organize your writing as you go is to use either manila folders or files on your computer. Use a separate folder for each memory topic or time period you are writing about. You can arrange your folders either alphabetically or by time sequence, or any other way that makes sense to you.
The important thing here is to have an organization method at the beginning of your writing so that you are not left with a huge pile of stuff at the end of your writing. Many people have gotten through the memories and the painstaking time it takes to write only to discover they have a huge monster of information that they can’t organize later. This can end your work in a heartbeat.
Choose a way to organize as you begin writing your first memories and if needed improve upon it, or add to it as you go along.
Now you have all you need to get started. Happy Writing!
Bluedolphin Crow is the writer for BellaOnline's Nonfiction Writing Site. Why not circle her on Google+?
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