How to Write a Memoir

How to Write a Memoir & Bring Your Story to Life

If you’re on this page, you’re likely wondering... “How to write a memoir?” Or perhaps you’re thinking “What even is a memoir?” The truth is, you have likely read or have written a memoir and just haven’t quite known the term to describe the genre!

Remember when you were in grammar school? Your teacher likely asked you to write a story about something fun you did with your family over summer vacation.  Or maybe it was your favorite memory? Is it starting to sound familiar? Well, those assignments were actually memoirs!  

What is a Memoir?

Essentially, a memoir is a creatively written story based on personal experiences and memories. What makes a memoir stand out is that the experiences that are written about are understood to be true to the author’s life by readers. Rather than just stating the events or facts of an experience,  a memoir details the emotional aspect of an experience as well.

Why Should I Write a Memoir?

Whether it’s to remember the emotional value of a life event or to tell a story through your perspective, there are so many different reasons to write a memoir!

While some authors write memoirs with the aim to publish them, you do not have to! Memoirs can be good reminders of your experiences that you can read back in the future or even pass down through your family for generations.

Think of it almost like a personal journal turned into a cohesive piece of literature!

What Should I Include in My Memoir?

When you’re learning how to write a memoir it can be confusing about what you should include. Perhaps you have a memory or experience that resonated deeply with you. Take that memory or experience and run with it! What you include in your memoir is up to you, but these are some helpful tips to make your story come alive!

How Should I Start Writing My Memoir?

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How to Write a Memoir

Where to Start...

  • Write for yourself! - If you’re planning on sharing your memoir with readers such as family or friends, don’t write only for them. Remember... this is for you too! Or, vice versa, it’s always good to keep the reader in mind to make sure that the memoir will make sense.
  • Be honest! - A memoir isn’t a memoir if the story isn’t true. Sure, you are allowed to omit anything that may be too personal to share or that you may not remember too well, but don’t lie about dialogue or actions! Stay true to yourself and the story.
  • Think more like a fiction writer rather than nonfiction! - Even though you are writing a nonfiction story, it is a good idea to think like a fiction writer when it comes to your style of writing or rhetorical devices. Get creative! Use figurative language such as similes, metaphors, and personification to make your memoir entertaining.
  • Create a FREE Forever My LifeJars account! - My LifeJars is an easy to use software that will help you capture memories and organize your life.  Learn how to write a memoir using My LifeJars. Have the information and details you need readily available and beautifully organized.  

How to Write a Memoir & Bring Your Story to Life:

  • Be selective when deciding what you write about - When coming up with a topic to focus on in your memoir, it’s a good idea to pick an experience that is significant and maybe a little dramatic. Though you can write a memoir about a more “boring” event in your life, you likely would have a more enjoyable experience writing about something that is dramatic and engaging… and readers would have a more enjoyable experience as well!
  • Follow the chronological order of your events - Jumping around from setting to setting or time to time can not only confuse a reader but can make writing that much harder for you! Following the natural order of events is an easy way to make your memoir understandable.
  • AVOID writing a whole autobiography - The term memoir comes from the French word mémoire which means memory. Essentially, memoirs are intended to focus on a specific memory in great detail.
  • Stick to YOUR story! - What makes a memoir a memoir is that it is a truthful story told from your perspective. Switching perspectives make your story less genuine because it is hard to write from another point of view without assuming or generalizing their feelings or experiences. Stick to your own perspective!
  • Use SENSES! - Sensory details are extremely important when it comes to immersing a reader in your story. Try your best to make the reader feel how you’re feeling by including examples of what you are smelling, hearing, or feeling.

How to Write a Memoir Ending

Where Should I End My Memoir?

Okay, so now you got into the groove of writing, but it feels like there’s no good place to cut off your story. Because, well… your story is still going on! But, you still need to “wrap it up” and conclude your memoir.

If your story is based on a specific event or experience, stop your story when you reach the natural conclusion of the event. The you can go back and tweak it afterward. Look for an event that led to the next “chapter” of your life.

For example, if you're writing a memoir about being with your significant other, begin at when you met them and end at your wedding or honeymoon rather than writing up to the present state of your relationship

Here's a couple ways you can conclude a scene: 

1. An event that resolves your story or brings it to a natural conclusion

If you find yourself nearing your page limit or the end of what you intended your story to focus on, think of a scene in your experience that perhaps resolved a challenge you were facing or achievement you have reached and use that as your conclusion!

Doing this will leave your story feeling whole. Your readers will leave feeling satisfied with the ending. It is also a good opportunity to include some life lessons that are important to you.

2. On the other hand, you can use a cliffhanger scene that leads to your “next chapter” 

Readers naturally seek a conclusion in which everything is resolved. However, a cliffhanger scene is a good way to remind readers that this is a real story!  And the story continues...

Furthermore, this is a great option, if you are planning on writing several memoirs or personal essays. Ending with a cliffhanger creates an opportunity for you to build off of your original memoir.