We know that most memoirs are survival stories. They are about getting through something – an addiction, an abusive relationship, or a life-threatening situation.
But how do you know what your story is really about? How do you sort the important bits from the mess of memory?
Here are six things you could do to find out:
- Find the pattern. Write down the most important events you want to include in your story. Is there a connection or a thread that links them? Does the same person or the same type of person recur in the story? Is there a recurring setup and failure?
- Ask an interested party. Interview somebody who knows you and the subject matter well. Ask them what they think the most important parts of the story are. You may be surprised that their perspective is completely different to yours. You may be so close to the story that you’ve forgotten what it looks like from the outside. It may give you a framework to work with.
- Free write. Be honest. Ask yourself some tough questions about your story. Complete these seven exercises: 7 Exercises To Try Before You Write About Yourself
- Tell three strangers your story. Choose people who do not know anything about you. Note the parts that interest them the most. Take note of any questions they ask. Take note of the parts where they struggle to keep their eyes open. Ask them if they would buy the book and why.
- Meditate. Go somewhere quiet if you can. Somewhere away from electronic devices and think about what you want to say. Ask yourself: ‘Why am I writing my story?’ Then forget about it for a few days. You will probably find that the answer comes to you at an unexpected moment.
- Use a timeline. How has the subject matter changed you? Create a timeline and write down who you were both spiritually and materially before the major events of the story occurred. Then write about who you are now. Have you learnt anything? Do you have something to share with readers?
Once you’ve done these, you should have a clearer answer when somebody wants to know what they can expect from your book.
P.S. If you want to learn how to write a memoir, enrol for our Secrets of a Memoirist course.
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