Writing in a journal or memoir can be tough, especially if you are writing about something traumatic.
It is a deeply personal and reflective process that means you will take a deep dive into the sometimes murky depths to share your unique experiences and insights with the world.
If you do embrace this rewarding and transformative experience, you’ll get the chance to reflect on your life, share your unique story with the world, and connect with readers on a personal level. You will change lives.
However, the process of writing a memoir can also be filled with uncertainties and questions. This article will explore some of the most interesting questions people often ask about writing a memoir.
Who Would Read My Story?
It's not a hugely interesting question, but it often reveals the gunge that lies beneath the question. Which is interesting.
People are drawn to memoirs because they offer a glimpse into someone else's life, experiences, and perspectives. Your story will generally resonate with people who have shared similar experiences and are looking for inspiration.
I read Girl Walks Out Of A Bar to understand how to get inside the mind of an alcoholic for a novel I am writing. It hit home in many other ways. I have also read some horrific stories of child abuse for other writing projects.
Believe in yourself and your story. It deserves to be told. Ask, is it really true that no one would be interested...?
Where Do I Even Start?
This is such a good question. I’d start with a journal, a story list, and loads of reflection.
When you scribble, the theme will emerge, and then, as if by magic, the trigger will scream at you.
Starting a memoir can feel overwhelming, especially when faced with a lifetime of memories. The key is finding a focal point or theme representing a significant aspect of your life. It could be a transformative event, a relationship, a particular period, or a central theme that runs through your experiences. By identifying a starting point, you can shape your story and give it direction.
Mine starts with opening my then-husband's computer and being presented with a pink thing (use your imagination), five years of lies, and a double life.
How Do I Write A Bestselling Memoir?
You don’t, and you can’t. I love this question sooooo much. The book world is full of bad marketing advice, and writing a bestseller is among the finest.
Full disclosure I have sold bestselling author masterclasses, but I have been upfront about what a bestselling book means on Amazon compared to The New York Times. There is a world of difference in the number of books you have to sell and what that means.
If you are a bestselling author on Amazon, for us mere mortals, that typically means in a certain category, and the book marketing experts can make this happen for you. There is a system for everything. I’ve done it, and it’s hard work.
Since my last ‘bestselling’ book Amazon has changed the system. So you need to be up to date with the latest techniques.
However, having said all that and you get bestseller status, bask in the glory because it does wonders for your confidence and brand.
What you can do is write the best book possible and market it like a demon. I’ll write more on this another day.
How Do I Choose a Captivating Topic?
This is another great question. I generally work with people whose story links to their work.
So if you are a sober coach, your book would encompass your recovery journey and how you healed.
Consider exploring moments of personal growth, challenges overcome, or extraordinary life experiences. Reflect on the events or themes that have profoundly impacted your life and can resonate with your audience.
Choosing a topic that evokes emotions, sparks curiosity, and provides valuable insights is essential. What floats your boat when you choose a book, and why? Do your research around your topic and ask what is missing.
Not all memoirs are about healing. Some are about, for example, travel or food. No matter what they are about, they need a hook. If I were a foodie inspired by my mum's creative cakes and desserts, I would write about our relationship and joint experiences with cakes and all of the delicious stories this conjures up.
Hasn't This Topic Been Done To Death?
You are right. There are lots of memoirs about similar things. I’ve read comments from some fairly rude people putting healing memoirs down. But the truth is people love to be inspired. They want to know what is possible for them.
However, what makes your story unique is your voice and perspective. Your personal experiences, emotions, and reflections bring a fresh and distinct angle to even the most familiar subjects. Embrace your individuality and trust that your story has value and significance.
Ignore your inner critic and go for it.
How Will I Know My Writing Is Good Enough?
The fear of not being good enough is common among writers, especially in deeply personal memoirs. Remember that writing is a muscle that needs exercising and a process, and the first draft is never perfect. You can refine your writing and create a compelling memoir with practice, perseverance, and editing. Keep writing.
Plus, when you feel ready, I’d share it with others. I often read bits of my writing to Mum, my most trusted confidante. She is great with feedback.
Can I Embellish The Truth In My Memoir?
Memoirs are expected to be based on real events and personal recollections. While some creative liberties can be taken with details to enhance storytelling, it is important to maintain the authenticity and integrity of the memoir.
Blurring the lines between fact and fiction can lead to credibility issues and ultimately undermine the purpose of writing a memoir. If you want to embellish the truth, write a novel.
I have read advice that says yes, but that advice goes against my values. Tell the truth or get out of Dodge.
What you can do is be clever with how you write. Show (as in show or tell) is a way to light up the reader's imagination, so play with your words.
What The Hell Is A Narrative Arc?
Well, it’s not a boat designed to save the animals. A narrative arc refers to the structure and flow of a story, including its beginning, middle, and end. It encompasses the rising action, climax, and resolution of the narrative.
In a memoir, the narrative arc helps you shape your story and create an interesting journey for readers. It allows you to highlight significant events, moments of growth, and lessons learned.
I always talk about well-planned books, so the narrative arc is part of that planning process.
Do I Have To Start At The Beginning Of My Life?
I wouldn’t unless there was a great reason to do so. I have been told some incredible birth stories, so these could kick off your memoir, but only if relevant.
There is no hard and fast rule that dictates you must begin your memoir at the exact beginning of your life. But many memoirs start at a significant turning point. Like mine, I opened a computer and was rather shocked.
You have the creative freedom to start wherever your story feels most compelling. It's important to capture the reader's attention from the outset and then weave in relevant background information as the story unfolds.
Do I Have To Be Kind To My Tormentors?
Oh my goodness, I have read some ugly writing and do not recommend it. You don’t have to be kind, but you have to be truthful. Your writing is a reflection of you and your brand, so think before you raise a poisoned pen.
Writing about people who have caused you pain or torment can be difficult. It's important to remember that your memoir is your story, and you have the freedom to share your experiences and emotions honestly.
However, it's also important to approach these portrayals with fairness and understanding.
Avoid demonising or solely blaming others, as it can limit the depth and nuance of your storytelling. Strive for a balanced and empathetic portrayal, showing the complexities (and weirdness) of human relationships and acknowledging (if you can) the factors that influenced people's actions from your perspective.
Here's what I would do. Write ugly and edit to show off my values.
Ok, that’s it for interesting memoir questions. I’ll be back soon with some more. If you have a pressing one or two, book a session and let's explore.