Use this post from Writers Write, your comprehensive writing resource, to find out why you need to narrow your focus if you’re writing a memoir.
If you want to write a memoir you need to learn how to focus on what you need to include. You need to limit extraneous storylines and narrow your focus.
Narrow Your Focus & Stick To Your Theme
As I explained in a previous post, a memoir is not an autobiography. A memoir focuses on a time, or an event, or series of events, or a choice, that is tied together with a theme. It is not your entire life story.
If you remember this, you will be able to focus on what is important to the book you are writing. Every scene you include in the memoir should have something important to show about this part of your life.
For example, Julian Barnes focuses on the period of grief following his wife’s death in Levels of Life. It is a memoir of grief and he ties it together with a theme of ballooning. He asks what happens when you put two things together and then tear them apart? It is a powerful book that is only 140 pages long.
A memoir can have a short or long time span. The events could happen in days or over a lifetime, but the focus must remain on those events and be tied to the theme.
How Does Narrowing The Focus Help?
If you can narrow your focus and figure out what your theme is, you will be able to ask:
- Is this scene important to my theme?
- Does this person show anything new about the theme? Have I already shown this via another person in my story?
- Does this conversation relate to the theme?
This will help you to decide what is important and what is superfluous to your story. You do not need to include everything that happened in your life – only the parts that resonate with the memoir.
P.S. If you want to learn how to write a memoir, join our Secrets of a Memoirist course.
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