An Outline Can Organize Your Memoir

An Outline Can Organize Your Memoir
A comment prompted by last week’s blog asked for more advice in getting started on a memoir. Creating an outline is an effective strategy because it’s an easier first step than writing a chapter, and the structure will guide you throughout the entire writing process.
Any decent word processing program will help you to format the outline. One common design uses, in order: roman numeral, capital letter, arabic number, lower-case letter, arabic number in parentheses, lower-case letter in parentheses and lower-case roman numeral in parentheses. You probably won’t even need to get into that level of detail. The idea is to trigger your memory and organize your thoughts so that you know where you’re going next. When applied to a memoir, it might look like this:
I. Childhood
A. Parents’ background
B. Siblings
C. School
D. Friends
E. Teen Years
II. Early Adulthood
A. 20s
1. First jobs
2. Meeting spouse
a. Courtship & marriage
b. Spouse’s family background
3. Birth of first child
B. 30s
1. New career
a. Night classes
b. Job at Company X
(1) Promotions
(a) Supervisor
(b) District manager
(i) Incident in New York
(ii) Company growth
c. Job at Company Y
2. Children
You can fill it in with a lot more—entire sentences if you like. You also don’t have to go in chronological order; check this page for other organizational options. When you become a WriteMyMemoirs member and go through our helpful interview process, a time line is created that serves as a type of outline for you. It provides cues to notable dates in your education and career, and we are working on a second time line that will organize your family life in the same way. We’re here to help, so please ask if you still have questions.

A comment prompted by last week’s blog asked for more advice in getting started on a memoir. Creating an outline is an effective strategy because it’s an easier first step than writing a chapter, and the structure will guide you throughout the entire writing process.

Any decent word processing program will help you to format the outline. One common design uses, in order: roman numeral, capital letter, arabic number, lower-case letter, arabic number in parentheses, lower-case letter in parentheses and lower-case roman numeral in parentheses. You probably won’t even need to get into that level of detail. The idea is to trigger your memory and organize your thoughts so that you know where you’re going next. When applied to a memoir, it might look like this:

I. Childhood

A. Parents’ background

B. Siblings

C. School

D. Friends

E. Teen Years

II. Early Adulthood

A. 20s

1. First jobs

2. Meeting spouse

a. Courtship & marriage

b. Spouse’s family background

3. Birth of first child

B. 30s

1. New career

a. Night classes

b. Job at Company X

(1) Promotions

(a) Supervisor

(b) District manager

(i) Incident in New York

(ii) Company growth

c. Job at Company Y

2. Children

You can fill it in with a lot more—entire sentences if you like. You also don’t have to go in chronological order; click here for other organizational options. When you become a WriteMyMemoirs member and go through our helpful interview process, a time line is created that serves as a type of outline for you. It provides cues to notable dates in your education and career, and we are working on a second time line that will organize your family life in the same way. We’re here to help, so please ask if you still have questions.