writing my memoir

I began the journey of writing my memoir in 2006.  I thought I was prepared.  Writing novels was the focus of my life for years.  A memoir is shorter than a novel.  The pause to write it would only be a year of my life – tops…  What’s the big deal?  It’s not like I didn’t know the story.

I was so wrong.

I was confident, in 2006.  Earlier in my life I had worked through writing courses, worked with critique groups, and attended conferences, to learn the craft of story.  I also had a successful track record as a technical writer.  I’d dash off the memoir and be back on track with my novel writing.  Memoir is a one shot deal.

The following is the process I took.  I don’t recommend this process.

Step 1 to writing my memoir:  Open a vein to my heart and memories, and bleed all over the keyboard, daily, for months.  I had hundreds of pages that went in a thousand directions and even my sisters couldn’t help.  Their memories are so different and unique – of the same incident!

Step 2 to writing my memoir:  Hire an independent editor. I met Erin Brown when she was the interested acquiring editor for the publisher of my choice.  Erin left that job and moved into her new career a few months later.  Her insights in 2008 were very encouraging!)  Rewrite, shift, read. read.read. etc.

Step 3 to writing my memoir:  I returned to college to relearn how to write, speak, and appreciate live theater.  This taught me what to write, and how to embrace story in all it’s forms.  I also attended conferences, workshops, and read tons of books.  (The reading part was the easiest for me!)

Step 4 to writing my memoir:  Figure out my target audience.  Who may care to read it?  And why?  How can my story benefit a reader?  This list of potential readers is a bit odd and disjointed.  Hmmm…  LOL!

Step 5 to writing my memoir:  Draft family.  I learned my sister-in-law Carla, is a grammar maven and was willing to be absolutely brutal to every page.  She sliced and diced through all 300+ pages and I cut and rearranged the story into 250 pages.  I sent it back to Carla for another slice and dice.  It was a thrill to see pages untouched by her red pen.

Step 6 to writing my memoir:  Draft friends.  I returned to my comfort zone, my exceptional group of romance writers.  These are friends who speak my language, understand a lot of my quirks, and have heard monthly announcements of my life for many years.

Later this week I’ll brainstorm with a published novelist (and awesome friend) who will help me figure out the story I’ve written in my memoir, and how to explain it in a few short sentences.

This is the greatest lesson I’ve learned by writing a memoir.  My life can be defined by a few sparkling sentences.  I just need to figure out what they are…

5 thoughts on “writing my memoir

  1. stacey warner

    memoir is so fun and painful…LOL! So you are done with yours? YAY!

    I’m currently working on one (as you probably know). I’m sort of “spring break” I’m writing but feel less directed at the moment. Waiting to start working with my writing teacher.

    much love


  2. Yes, and very humbling. LOL! It is as done as I can make it, the pages need a little more polish but the story structure is solid. The beginning and end are good, but even better, the bulk of stories in the middle build the conflict and drama. This was my main concern, not to have a sagging middle. 🙂


  3. I work as an editor helping people write memoirs both for limited distribution and for commercial publication and almost universally they have a similar experience. Writing a memoir is a unique creative experience because it is so personal. It’s a journey of exploration and self-discovery different from what you experience in any other form of writing.
    Congratulations on finishing yours!


  4. Pingback: real characters « Terri Patrick's Blog

  5. Pingback: dissecting a book « Terri Patrick's Blog

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