Memoir Writing is a class I only offer once a year. Tonight I look forward to meeting a new class of memoir writers. A few fundamental questions come up regularly, so I thought I’d give the short answer about some of them.
Writing Tip for Today: Student writers want to know exactly what a memoir is (and isn’t). Here are some thoughts:
- A memoir is different than “one’s memoirs.” A memoir tells a story of a particular person at a particular time of life, illustrated by using fictional techniques such as scene writing, pacing and dialogue. Autobiography can mean memoir, but for me, autobiography and “one’s memoirs” or a legacy book has come to mean a chronicle of a life rather than a story.
- A memoir may be book length or essay length, but it must be focused upon a theme, a time span or a phase of life that readers will identify with.
- Just because a person has lead an “interesting life” that person is not an automatic qualifier for a publishable memoir. Most well-known memoirs (as in book length works) fall into two categories: celebrity or compelling storytelling through fine writing.
- Most ordinary people won’t find a traditional publisher for a book-length memoir. Exceptions are the compelling writing and storytelling or a celebrity status.
- If you want to write a memoir of your life for your family & friends, consider self-publishing. This type of book is often called a “legacy” book.
- As you write the story, it will be helpful to write it as you would a novel–complete with scenes, dialogue (even if you don’t remember exact words) and leaving out the boring stuff.