Every ordinary life story is extraordinary!

Every ordinary life story is extraordinary!

Take This Quiz to Find Out Whether You’re Writing a Memoir or an Autobiography

Woman wondering what to call her book.

A common question authors have about memoir is whether they’re writing a true memoir or an autobiography. At Write My Memoirs, we don’t make much of a distinction. If you’re writing about your life, you’re writing about your life. Call it a memoir, autobiography, life history—we don’t think it matters much.

But authors continue to want to know how to label their book, so here’s a little quiz for you to take to reveal whether, according to conventional thinking, you’re writing a memoir or an autobiography.

Answer TRUE or FALSE:

  1. My story begins with my birth and continues to present day.
  2. My primary goal in writing my book is to provide information for my children and grandchildren to “know where they come from.”
  3. I would like generations in the future to have a reliable record of what life was like growing up when and where I grew up, as well as what adulthood was like during my lifetime.
  4. Even though my life hasn’t been that unusual, I want to get all the facts down.
  5. I want to tell all about my life in my own voice.
  6. The hurdles I overcame in my life holds lessons for other people.
  7. Even though I am not yet 50 years old, I want to write my book now.
  8. I will devote much of my book to one part of my life that was very unusual.
  9. Something happened to me that I feel compelled to write about.
  10. Everyone asks me about one episode in my life, so I decided to write about that.

As you may have figured out, this list of 10 questions starts heavy on autobiography and progresses incrementally to memoir.

Give yourself 1 point for each time you answered TRUE to questions 1 through 4.
Give yourself 2 points for each time you answered TRUE to questions 5 and 6.
Give yourself 3 points for each time you answered TRUE to questions 7 through 10.

Scores

1-8: Your book is an autobiography.

9-16: Your book is more of a memoir.

17-20: Your book may not have enough of a theme. Rethink whether you want to focus on one part of your life or write a comprehensive book that gives relatively equal treatment to all parts of your life.

Hope this helps! At Write My Memoirs, we want to help you write and publish the best book you can have to represent your perspective of your life.

New Look, New Grammar Course!

Info on Write My Memoirs Grammar and Writing Course

You may have noticed that our home page has been updated not only in graphic design but also in featuring our brand new Write My Memoirs Grammar and Writing Course. This digital, eight-lesson course offers a free Intro Lesson you can take to get a foundation in parts of speech and parts of a sentence. It starts out with a tongue-in-cheek “What Not To Do” letter from me to you that demonstrates a lot of very bad grammar.

If that’s your kind of fun, you will enjoy the whole course! We examine some grammar errors in classic rock lyrics, too. Most of the examples throughout the course model memoir elements, since they describe my own life. As I crafted these examples, I had fun remembering events from my childhood, which I’m lucky to say was a happy one.

I based the principles and practice exercises presented in the course on an in-person, classroom course I taught for 20 years to adults in a continuing education program. Whether you’re writing a memoir or you need to write for work or school, I feel sure you’ll get your money’s worth with this $39 course!

Music Triggers Memoir Stories

piano

Every now and then when you hear a song, does it take you back to a particular memory? I think we all have that experience. One of the biggest summer songs some years back was Kid Rock’s “All Summer Long,” which recounts the singer’s fun summer years ago when he met a girl and blasted songs on a Michigan lake beach. At the end, it includes this lyric: “Sometimes I’ll hear that song, and I’ll start to sing along, and think man I’d love to see that girl again.” It’s hearing the music that revives the emotion.

As we write our memoirs, we pay a lot of attention to the sense of sight, making sure to convey a scene just as we witnessed it. In some scenes, we also remember other senses. How did the meal taste? What were the aromas in the house at the time? Don’t forget the sense of hearing! As you write about an era of your life, listen to the music you were hearing at the time. This may trigger unique memories, and you can include some references in your memoir if you think it will help the reader to connect.

Music has always played a huge role in my life, so I really relate to someone who includes special songs when writing a memoir. From some pre-Beatles tunes right through to today’s top 40, songs provide a sort of déjà vu for me. Coloring your life story with details like that will make it interesting not only to read, but to write as well.

Image: ©Vladyslav Makarov

Journaling Can Be First Step in Writing Memoirs

Cover of Little Women

On a visit to the Boston area some years ago, I took a tour of Orchard House, which is where Louisa May Alcott wrote her memoirs in the form of Little Women and other well-loved books. In an introductory video, an actress portraying Miss Alcott talked about her home and how she became such a widely read author. She’d always kept a journal, so when she decided to write a book for girls based on her own family, she had a lot of information already in writing and did not have to rely on her memory. Thus she encouraged everyone to keep a journal.

That seems like great advice. You never know when the urge will strike to write your autobiography. If, earlier, you described important events right when they occurred, you’ll have a much more accurate account of how they unfolded and who said what. You’ll be able to capture the feelings of the day—the weather, sounds, colors and your own emotional responses.

Even if you never turn your journal entries into a full book, the process of journaling can be rewarding in itself. Alcott has been widely quoted as writing, in 1855, “I am in the garret with my papers round me, and a pile of apples to eat while I write my journal, plan stories, and enjoy the patter of rain on the roof, in peace and quiet.” You never know—maybe your memoirs will become as famous as Louisa’s!


Happy U.S. Thanksgiving from Write My Memoirs!

Write My Memoirs Thanksgiving

Many of our members here on Write My Memoirs do not live in the United States, so they do not celebrate Thanksgiving. But the Thanksgiving sentiment is something that applies to memoirs no matter what your nationality. Thanksgiving brings up all sorts of memories.

  • For Americans who were alive in 1963, the memory of that Thanksgiving can be painful, because President Kennedy was murdered six days earlier. All Americans remember where they were when JFK was shot. I was in fifth grade, and we were sent home early. Walking home in the middle of the day, I was surrounded by an eerie silence. This is something that could go into a memoir. Even if you’re not American and weren’t living in the United States at the time, I’m sure the news reached you and touched you in some way.
  • Thanksgiving brings to mind family traditions in general. What are yours? Do you cook Thanksgiving dinner? Attend a family get-together? Is your autumn all about football, or raking leaves or getting away from the cold? Certainly Thanksgiving or any family celebration can be a focal point of a memoir.
  • The end of the year signals loss for many people. Those memories are punctuated by the contrast of holiday celebration. My own mother died on this date, November 25, and we held her funeral the day before Thanksgiving. The following day, it took until afternoon for any of us to realize it was Thanksgiving. We bought some deli turkey, ate sandwiches and cried and reminisced about Mom. Perhaps you have a November story to tell in your memoir.

Starting a memoir now is a great idea, because it’s a jumpstart on the New Year. A lot of times we start some goal on January 1 only to abandon it by February. Starting now gives you that necessary six weeks to get in the habit of writing so that you don’t disappoint yourself in 2020!

Happy Thanksgiving, memoir authors!

Can You Write a Good Memoir Without Fact-Checking? No!

Fact-check your memoir

Memoirs rely on the author’s memory, but we all are  aware that memory tends not to improve with age. It’s well-known that witnesses to the same crime report sometimes vastly different details. When you compare notes with siblings or childhood friends, you’re likely to discover that your accounts of the same incident differ significantly.

In many cases, you can’t know for sure whether your memory is correct. That bullying incident on the playground in fourth grade—did the other kid really say the words you remember? There’s no way to know for sure. That’s ok. Whether it happened exactly the way you remember is not as important as the fact that, in your mind, it did happen as you’re describing it. The incident’s effect on you is clear even if the truth about it isn’t.

But so many small facts can be checked. Today’s technology makes writing a memoir easier than it’s ever been in so many ways, and fact-checking is high on that list. Unlike in years past, there’s no need to sit in a library all day.

If you’re writing about the snowfall that occurred on your sixteenth birthday, take a minute to look up the weather report on that day. If you believe you attended your town’s bicentennial when you were 12 years old, some quick Googling will make sure you have the time line correct. If you describe walking down Center Street to your elementary school, make sure in your hometown it wasn’t spelled “Centre” Street, or it wasn’t Center Avenue. These are not unforgivable errors, but this is your book—why have any error that you can easily prevent?

Show your draft to family members for their input and recollections on the events you describe. Ask them to be particularly attentive to the facts you lay out. A parent, child or sibling may offer a perspective that you hadn’t considered or have some information that would add texture to your account.

Knowledge that we’ve carried with us all our lives can turn out to be our impressions rather than hard facts. Just check out everything you can.

A Teen’s Halloween Memoir Captures the Holiday’s Images

Write My Memoirs Halloween memoir

A few years ago, an anonymous memoir author recalled the quintessential Halloween and posted those memories on teenink.com. Write My Memoirs is happy to share this, titled “Halloween Memoir,” with our community:

In the middle of a numbing January freeze, or a deafening August heat, there will be an odd lingering sensation scratching for attention that can only be calmed by a world of pure discord. A feeling that is annually relieved by the pure bliss of hearing a tune about a man working in his lab late one night, by the aroma of pumpkin pie and glee in the air, mixed in with the smell of wet leaves from the downpour of excitement, and by the sight of children giddily gliding through the streets in sparkling and vivacious outfits as their eyes light up the engulfing night.

Bubbling cauldrons are at every door, seeping down doorsteps and into the minds of all who wander. There are doorbells that yelp at the sight of children singing happily of treats. Spells are cast in every which way and there is the distinct sound of despicable laughter ringing in the blinding moonlight. With the arrival of a glistening full moon there come werewolves howling for human flesh and yellow eyes that flicker all around you, as they begin to circle you. Frantic screams echo through the night and the wicked laughs of murderous clowns come from all around, for they are joyful in knowing that they are finally freed from the lethargic thought of serenity.

Of course, there are chocolates and candies downing throats at every given second. The delicious flavors battling to please candy-obsessed taste buds. Trapped within each and every wall are ghouls wailing, waiting to be freed. Then, there’s the pumpkin picking. The quest for the most perfectly plump, sensationally orange pumpkin in all of creation. The smell dances around in every nook and cranny, frolicking with jubilance to have finally been released to the world.

All of the smells lure children from the warm homes into the chills of an October eve with an enchanting autumn high. The satisfaction of knowing you have the best jack-o-lantern in town as you set him down to witness the complete and utter chaos that will be turning the corner at any given moment. Pumpkin fragrances ooze through the streets once again and rush and play and swing in every place they can possibly slither into. The squirmy guts and sinewy insides are transformed into brains as zombies come out, hungry, oh so hungry for the meaty, squishy taste they can’t resist.

The heavily anticipated darkness finally twirls the Earth into its beautiful black cloak with a menacing grin. The world is able to escape all the bad and all the good as the true meaning of being alive lightens the minds of all. No longer existing, no longer being, but living. Living for the candy and living for the frenzy that comes only at this special, haunting hour. Bags heavy with what only the heavens could supply, but nothing could stop the unraveling path of fate. Candy fills round tummies for ages, and the aches and hunger seem to last forever.

Arriving home and finally sitting down, but instead greeted with a flabbergasting fall into bed, perpetually falling into a bottomless rabbit hole of despair, for it is now well known that the night is over. Eyes are finally pried open the next morning and the vivid sensations of the prior eve circle around, reminding all that the night must be awaited for an agonizingly long period of time. Every glimpse of candy, the faint sound of a howl, or a terrified shriek, a mocking reminder of the thrill we long for. Now we await patiently, patiently anticipating the reveal of all evil and abnormalities within, as we free the caged monster that has been abstracted by the foolish term that goes by the name of “normalcy,” the caged monster that is crawling within us all.

New Feature: Post Your Writing at Write My Memoirs!

Our Write My Memoirs community and services are growing!

While we provide publishing services to help you publish your book, we’re hearing from some authors who do not want “paper publishing” but would prefer to share their work by displaying it online. Some people want to share with the public, and some want a link to send just to friends, family or other selected people.

In response, we have created a new section on Write My Memoirs that gives you, the author, your own publishing page! See an example here of an author who would love for you to read her stories. As you can see, we place the copyright symbol with your name at the top of the page to protect the work.

Let us know that you would like to post your work, and we’ll create a page for you. You can use our Contact Us form or write us directly at: support@writemymemoirs.com

Our tech department is working on a way for you to upload your work, but for right now you can just email the work to the “support” address, and we’ll get it online within a day or two. Then we’ll supply you with a link to share. Feel free to include images.

This is a good way to get feedback little by little as you write each chapter. You can learn how people are reacting to your writing and continuously polish it as you work to complete your book. And if you’d like, at our very reasonable prices we’ll supply a quick edit before you display your work.

Lizzo Reflects a Common Memoir Theme: Life Happens, and You Fix It

There’s a song out right now, “Truth Hurts” by Lizzo, that has the lyric:
“Yeah, I got boy problems, that’s the human in me.
Bling bling, then I solve ’em, that’s the goddess in me.”

That way of thinking proves to be a catalyst for many memoir authors. Your problems happen to you through no fault of your own, but you manage to turn them around or triumph over them. You change the direction of your destiny through sheer will and hard work.

As a child you suffered neglect, poverty, family dysfunction, maybe abuse—and look at you now. You mended your broken parts and became a whole adult. Or you fell into a downward spiral of addiction until you kicked it for good.

Maybe the redemption wasn’t as dramatic. You were a clumsy kid who became an accomplished athlete. Or you left Wall Street to run a small farm and love it. Or you took a chance on surgery that cured a debilitating medical condition. It can even be what Lizzo says: you figured out what you were doing wrong in romance, and now you have a great relationship.

We’re driven to share our win against the odds or the formula we devised all on our own for repairing our situation. It’s not about bragging, just documenting. We write it all out to add weight to the fact that it happened. The writing provides a bit of therapy—or at least closure. It’s letting out a breath we’ve held for so long. Phew. We did it, and now we wrote about it. And we hope that sharing our story will help others facing a similar set of circumstances.

If you’re looking in the mirror and seeing someone you’re relieved to finally be, no wonder you want describe who you are now and how you got from then to now.

What Motivates a Writer to Keep Writing? It’s Not What You Think!

Deciding to write a memoir is the easy part, right? It’s the writing that gets hard. It’s exciting at the beginning to think of the name of your book, jot down possible chapter topics and dig up old photos to remind you of times past.

But then you sit down at the computer to craft the words, one by one, that will express what you want readers to know about you. It may surprise you, especially if you’re a new author, how much motivation it takes to write day after day. Sometimes you edit or rewrite what you already have. Other times you skip a day or two altogether. Soon a week may pass without one word added to your memoir. And we all know how one week can lead into the next.

So what do you do? Everything you can think of.

  • You read books on memoir writing.
  • You attend a writing seminar.
  • You tell friends that you’re writing a memoir for the same reason people tell friends they’re trying to lose weight—saying it out loud makes it a real goal with people expecting to hear about your progress.
  • You find a “memoir buddy” to compare writing challenges and keep each other accountable.

And after all that, you still have trouble sticking with the project. You look at your work and doubt yourself. Fear, whatever—you are not making progress.

Writers’ secret weapon

You’re overlooking the obvious. A writer’s secret weapon against becoming discouraged is simple and available. When you were younger, you regularly learned new skills or got obsessed over a new hobby. Maybe you picked up an instrument, joined a sports team, tried your hand at painting—whatever it was, you expected a learning curve. You knew you wouldn’t be that great at first. But you had your piano teacher, tennis coach—someone who would give you one-on-one instruction and critique. Little by little you’d improve. And the better you got at what you were doing, what happened? The more you wanted to do it.

Writing is the same. You don’t need another book or seminar or amateur buddy. What will motivate you is a professional who will not only edit your work but explain all of your personal writing pitfalls. You have this grammar issue or that organization problem. Your sentences tend to be short and choppy or long and rambling. You want to tell how you feel about something instead of describing it vividly enough for the reader to feel what you feel just from the description.

When you read your own ideas, words and life experiences in a polished writing form—when you can say I am proud of this chapter—that’s when you’ll be motivated to keep writing. You’ll keep getting better, but that’s not the only thing you’ll notice. You’ll see that you are fearless, because the editor is your safety net. You don’t have to doubt yourself. Just write, and if it’s not perfect you’ll find out why in a forgiving, nonjudgmental manner.

As always, Write My Memoirs would be honored to be trusted to edit your life story. Visit our Writing Services page to find out more.

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Then just set up a chapter and start writing your memoir. Don’t worry about rules. There are no rules to writing your memoir; there are only trends. These trends are based on techniques and features identified in current top-selling memoirs. At best, they’re the flavor of the month. If you’re capturing your life in print for your family, for your own gratification or to inspire readers, rather than aiming to set off Hollywood screenplay bidding wars, these trends don’t even apply to you. You’ll write the memoir that suits you best, and it will be timeless, not trend-driven.There are no rules, but there are four steps:

1. Theme/framework
2. Writing
3. Editing/polishing
4. Self-publishing

You’ve researched this, too, and you’ve been shocked at the price for getting help with any one of those steps, much less all four. That’s because most memoir sites promise to commercialize your work. They’ll follow a formula based on current memoir trends, because they want to convince you that they can turn your memoir into a best-seller. These sites overwhelm you with unnecessary information not to help you, the memoir author, but to address Search Engine Optimization (SEO) algorithms so they can sell more.

That’s not what we do at Write My Memoirs. Our small community of coaches, writers and editors are every bit as skilled as any you’ll find, and we charge appropriately for their expertise and the time they’ll spend helping you craft a compelling, enjoyable read. But you won’t pay an upcharge for other websites’ commercialization, the marketing that follows, and the pages of intimidating “advice.” You can sell your book if you like—we have ISBNs available for you—but our organic process of capturing your story takes a noncommercial path.

If you want help with any or all of the four steps above, choose from our services or save money by selecting one of our packages. If you’d like to talk about what’s right for you, schedule a call. One year from now, you can be holding your published memoir in your hand. And at that point, it will be a big deal!