Every ordinary life story is extraordinary!

Every ordinary life story is extraordinary!

How to Tell Whether You’re a Writer

How to Tell Whether You're a Writer little girl writing in a book

And why you don’t have to be a writer to write a great memoir

When you’re a writer, you write. You can tell whether you’re a writer just by looking at the sheer volume of your work. Do you have notebooks full of essays, poems, stories or even just thoughts? Is your computer filled with files of creative or expository writing?

Writers Write 24/7

When you’re a writer, your mood and the outside world may influence your subject matter, but none of that keeps you from writing. When you’re happy, you write. When you’re angry or sad, you also write. When you’re bored, you write, but when you’re so busy you don’t have a minute to spare, you still write. You don’t have to be an avid reader or a student of writing to be a writer. Some writers just have a feel for language without all that much example to follow.

Sometimes the writing is just in your head. This is when you’re not in the stage of getting it down on paper or into the computer. You’re more in the gathering stage—observing life in a way that writers do, with chapter titles or lines from a movie scene script scrolling across your mind.

Parents sometimes seek my advice. “My kid wants to be a writer,” they’ll say. “Is it easy to make a living from writing? Should my kid major in writing in college?”

I have only one response. “A writer writes,” I say. “Whether writing as a living or doing it as a hobby, if your kid is a writer, your kid will write.”

I think you might as well try to make money from what you love to do, but if you have another calling you’d rather pursue professionally, writing will still be there. Kids like that can become lawyers, and then the part of the job they love most is writing the brief. They can graduate with a major in business and still find lots of writing opportunities in marketing and other aspects of their job description. And if it does just end up as a hobby, it can be a very satisfying one.

Skill Level Is No Measure for Whether You’re a Writer

You can be a writer and yet not write very well. You may have an amateur hand at poetry or grammar errors in your essays or poorly constructed transitions in your short stories. Still, you get joy from the process of putting your thoughts into words, the words into sentences, the sentences into paragraphs, and you see where I’m going with this.

The opposite is true as well: you may write very well but not be a writer. Your boss may ask you to do a lot of writing in your job because you’re good at it. Maybe you’re able to knock off a speech for your sister’s wedding in an hour, and perhaps grammar and spelling come naturally to you. But you don’t choose to write for pleasure. You’re out doing other things. If you’re that person, you are not a writer.

Think about a natural athlete. How many of those have fallen by the wayside? The star high school basketball player, the gifted Little League pitcher, the promising tennis prodigy. Something else catches their interest, and the sport fades because, while they have more talent than everyone around them, their heart is not in the sport. If your heart is not in writing, you’re not a writer. But you still can write.

What skill level can determine is how much validation you receive about your writing. Typically, gifted writers receive a lot of encouragement in school, but I worry about writers who have more love than talent. A teacher who gets overzealous in criticizing your writing can kill the passion in you. That’s a real shame.

For one thing, you can improve in time. But mostly, if you love to write you should be encouraged even though you won’t be writing for a living or maybe even sharing your writing at all. The process of writing can be healing, so don’t give it up just because some teacher didn’t nourish your desire to write.

Both Writers and Non-writers Can Write a Memoir

If you’re trying to write a memoir, don’t worry about whether you’re a writer. Just keep at it until you finish your memoir. It may be your only completed written work or the only writing you’ve ever taken on voluntarily. Writing a memoir may be important to you for a lot of reasons; enjoying the writing process doesn’t have to be one of them.

And if you’re a writer in your heart and soul, a memoir may just be another format you feel like trying out. You may believe that you’ve lived an ordinary life, but you find it an exciting project to describe in writing the world that is uniquely yours.

My Own Example

I think I was pretty much born a writer. I wrote a song when I was about twelve, I always wrote my own cards for my parents’ birthdays, and I started writing poetry in high school. None of that came about as a conscious decision. The way a friendly person makes friends from childhood on, I just wrote as part of who I was.

My English literature major in college seemed an obvious choice, since in high school I received good grades on my term papers and enjoyed writing them. But halfway through college, when I took a couple of journalism courses, I had a name for what I really was: a journalist. I was a reporter. I could write up any set of facts. I realized that I enjoyed doing research and conducting interviews more than relying on my imagination to come up with plots and develop characters for creative writing. I never dreamed about writing the next great American novel.

Since then, I’ve been lucky to have been a working journalist, a grammar teacher, and eventually a memoir coach, editor and ghostwriter. But even though I write professionally, I still write for myself. My computer files’ labels tell the story: “old writings,” “miscellaneous writings,” “song lyrics,” “parenting reflections,” “speeches,” “TV pilot,” “poems,” “script ideas,” and dozens of titles of stories.

Even this blog—no one forces me to write it. I just like getting my thoughts down. I’m a writer. Maybe you are, too. Or maybe you’re not. That’s okay, and your memoir may still be amazing.

 

How to Professionalize Your Memoir Writing

Woman sitting on bed with books flying around her because they need to professionalize the memoir writing.

Fun with AI! We asked for some moderately bad prose so you can see what to avoid.

You can write well while still knowing there’s room to professionalize your memoir writing. The amateur quality can be distracting for readers, who pick up on the feeling that it just doesn’t sound like a “real” book even when it more or less keeps their interest.

Two Types of Unprofessional Writing

First-time book authors often have a nice flair for writing. They have an eye for detail, an adeptness at turning a phrase and a rich vocabulary of words that precisely hit the mark in descriptive prose. In school, these writers tended to receive high marks in their creative writing classes.

But it can all become, as they say, “a lot”—too much, in fact. Similes, metaphors, analogies. If one adjective is good, four must be four times better. No character is simply permitted to have “said” something. It has to have been “shouted” or “whispered,” “remarked” or “added,” “said confidently” or “said flippantly.”

You’ve probably heard “it was a dark and stormy night” referred to as a standard cliché for over-dramatic prose, and it’s nothing compared with what a lot of editors receive from inexperienced writers. And to compound the reader’s difficulty in getting through the flowery style, these writers often lack a full grasp of grammar and punctuation. A run-on sentence is hard enough on the reader when it’s not crammed with adjectives requiring that a dictionary be kept on hand.

The opposite category is expository writing, which also won’t serve you well if you’re trying to write a compelling memoir. An expository writer has all of the mechanics down pat and does well when writing essays. When it comes to memoir writing, however, which should more closely resemble a novel than a thesis, there’s no panache and little imagination.

Flowery Writing Samples From AI

I wanted to show you what editors sometimes encounter with first-time book authors, but I’m not good at writing badly. (I realize that brag wasn’t even humble.) So rather than spending hours trying to create authentic sub-par memoir writing, I thought I’d ask speedy ChatGPT for some help. I’ve read enough AI-generated copy that I knew a bad-writing assignment would come naturally to ChatGPT.

When I requested examples of “bad writing” without qualifying how the writing should fail, ChatGPT supplied the first category—the overdone writing that feels as if the author is trying too hard. See whether you can get through this paragraph, which ChatGPT criticizes for its “excessive use of clichés, purple prose, and melodramatic language. It lacks subtlety, coherence, and originality, making it difficult for the reader to engage with the text.” I have to agree:

“The ethereal moon hung in the sky like a silver coin, casting its shimmering light upon the tranquil landscape below. The stars, like diamonds strewn across a velvet canvas, twinkled and danced with a celestial elegance. Sarah gazed up at the heavens, her heart filled with a sense of wonder and awe at the beauty of the universe. Suddenly, a chill wind swept through the air, causing her to shiver involuntarily. It was as if the cosmos itself had conspired to send a shiver down her spine, reminding her of the fragility of existence. Lost in the vastness of the night, Sarah felt a profound sense of loneliness wash over her like a tidal wave, engulfing her in its icy embrace.”

ChatGPT’s second attempt earns its own thumbs down because “it suffers from exaggerated and melodramatic language, as well as clichéd descriptions. The imagery is heavy-handed and lacks subtlety, making it difficult for the reader to become immersed in the scene. Additionally, the prose relies on tired metaphors and fails to evoke genuine emotion or intrigue.” Again, the criticism is warranted:

“The old house stood on the hill like a brooding sentinel, its weather-beaten facade telling tales of forgotten yesteryears. Ivy clung to its walls like a lover desperate for affection, while the windows stared out like vacant eyes, haunted by the ghosts of bygone days. Inside, the air was thick with the scent of must and decay, as though time itself had seeped into the very bones of the building. Sarah hesitated at the threshold, her heart pounding like a drum in her chest. She could feel the weight of history pressing down upon her, suffocating her with its oppressive presence. But still, she pressed on, driven by an insatiable curiosity that refused to be quelled.”

You may be thinking that these paragraphs aren’t so bad. I understand that and don’t mean to trash it too much. It’s really hard to know how much metaphor and simile to throw in there. I don’t hate the comparison of an old house to “a brooding sentinel” or the clinging ivy to “a lover desperate for affection.” But by the time it gets to her heart “pounding like a drum in her chest,” I’m pretty tired of reading that stuff.

The first example is more problematic. Its analogies are less original—how many times have you read that something washed over the character like a tidal wave?—and the images are more corny, as in “as if the cosmos itself had conspired to send a shiver down her spine, reminding her of the fragility of existence.”

This is the type of writing that an editor might not even attempt to fix and, instead, send it back for the author to rework, because the embellished, self-conscious style has come to define the author’s voice. An editor does not want to replace the author’s voice. So if your voice tends to sing with melody, harmony and falsetto all competing for the reader’s attention, maybe you should clear your throat and see whether that gives your writer’s voice more clarity. If you noticed that the previous sentence provides my own example of questionable metaphor, you’ve got a keen ear for that sort of thing.

Stiff Writing Sample from AI

Next, I asked ChatGPT for a sample of dry, stiff writing. It devised the type of writing that answers the “what, when, where, why and how”—straight reporting. ChatGPT describes this as “characterized by formal language, lengthy sentences, and a lack of natural flow. It often feels rigid and overly formal, lacking in warmth or personality.”

This isn’t even worthy of being called expository writing, and it certainly will not sell a memoir:

“The meeting commenced promptly at 9:00 a.m. with the chairperson introducing the agenda items sequentially. Each participant was called upon in turn to provide updates on their respective projects. The proceedings proceeded in a systematic manner, with minimal deviation from the predetermined schedule. Discussions were primarily focused on task completion timelines and resource allocation, with little room for extraneous discourse. The meeting adjourned at 10:30 a.m. as scheduled.”

Among other issues, passive tense dominates in that text, which never helps a narrative. I want to caution you not to feel that you have to avoid passive tense altogether, but active tense vs. passive tense is another topic for another time.

Write From the Gut

I’d advise writing from the heart, but your heart is not exactly the best source. Write from your gut. What feels natural to you? How do you speak? What have you written that you’ve reread over and over and still feel good about? Now that you’re aware of the over-embellished or too-formal extremes, how can you aim your voice to avoid both?

Read your work as a reader would. If you have to slow down to catch all of the big words, or if you’re wanting to skip ahead because you’re falling asleep, go back and rewrite that part. As an author, you are most authentic, most compelling and most distinctive when you’re just yourself.

How to Edit Your Memoir’s First Draft

Woman sitting on a couch with a laptop doing the first edit on her memoir manuscript

You are the best person to tackle this project before handing it over to a professional editor.

If your memoir’s first draft is a mess, you’re doing something right. The “something” is that you’re getting it all down without worrying about the mechanics of good writing. You’re not thinking about punctuation and sentence structure and paragraph length. Of course, that means that when you finish that draft, you’ll have a lot of work ahead of you. But that’s true even if you’re careful to place commas properly and pay attention to the spellcheck cues. It’s called a first draft for a reason. It’s meant not to be published but to serve as a foundation for a well-written narrative.

When you complete it, you can do a quick read-through and hand over your manuscript to a professional editor. I don’t recommend it, not when your manuscript is still in its infancy. You won’t be happy, because the editor’s changes will be sweeping, and your writer’s voice will probably get “lost in translation.”

Try This Analogy

Think of a house remodel. You hire an interior designer who directs the work crew, room by room, to paint the walls, swap out the furniture, change the lighting, replace the flooring and update the appliances. You go to a hotel for a few weeks and return to find that the house may be more beautiful than ever, but it no longer feels like your home.

However, if you go through the house first and decide which wall colors, furniture, lights, appliances, rugs and tiling you want to change and how you want those changes to look, you’ll still be comfortable in the house for two reasons. First, you’re making the changes one at a time and not just seeing the shocking result. Second, of course, you’re the one making the big decisions.

You’ll still probably need a professional touch. So then you can have the decorator come in and add window treatments and wall art, reverse some of your less wise choices and suggest furniture placement to improve the flow of the house.

Substituting your memoir for your house, it’s best for you to decide on the early, major revisions. When the manuscript is in the best shape you can get it into, you can ask an editor to check for typical pitfalls and add that professional polish.

Go Through Your Memoir As a Reader Would

Your first post-completion read-through is probably the hardest one. Pick up your finished manuscript as if you’re a reader. You don’t know any back story, you have never visited the hometown described in the book, you have no idea how things will turn out.

Now that you’re not you, can you follow the book? Does it all make sense?

One of the most common mistakes I see memoir authors make is to forget that the reader knows nearly nothing. Authors jump around with a confusing time line, insert people without introducing who they are, reference obscure historical facts without explanation, or set the action against geography that they don’t fully describe. There are holes all over the place, and the book is too hard to follow for the reader to bother sticking with it.

Authors also make the opposite error and assume the reader is totally ignorant. Once you’ve identified Paul as your childhood friend or distinguished your sister Jane from your sister Judy by giving their ages, you can just call them by their names. You don’t have to remind readers every time you mention Paul by calling him your childhood friend Paul or always saying your older sister Jane or your younger sister Judy. If chapters have gone by since the initial identification, then one reminder is enough.

These are the types of big-picture mistakes that an editor can catch but not always correct. Only you have the knowledge to add a “how we got here” explanation that seems to be missing. Only you can spot a description of scenery that lacks the one thing that made you feel safe that day. Without it, the reader doesn’t pick up on your feeling of security. Only you can make a call to your mom’s brother to fill in the details of a pivotal day in her life that ended up impacting her instincts in mothering you.

As an ordinary reader, do you feel that you want to keep turning the pages? A funny thing happens when you read your own book as if you’re coming to the information for the first time. If the writing is good, it doesn’t matter that you know what comes next and how everything turns out. You still feel compelled to keep reading. Even if you’ve read that chapter six times, you want to keep reading it. So stay aware of whether you’re fully engaged throughout the book or you’re getting a little bored and your mind is wandering.

Picture Yourself After Your Memoir Is Published

Whether you’re writing only for friends and family or you want to see your book at the top of the best-seller list, read through it with your best interest in mind. Think about all of the information and personal emotions that you’re sharing. How will you feel when you’ve bared your heart, soul and brain and have to face the people who have read all of that?

Sometimes the writing process is cathartic, and that in itself is good enough. You may feel so much better that you just got it out. Maybe you don’t need the next step of having people read what you wrote. Before you wrote it out, perhaps you had strong feelings of revenge. You’ll tell what happened to you, and the people who harmed you in your life will be shamed. You’ll feel heard for the first time. But then after you write it, those vengeful feelings may subside. You may feel that you don’t want to relive those traumas anymore by having to talk about those sections of your book after it’s published. So you put it away without publishing; it was a writing exercise that helped you find closure.

Or you may want to keep each story intact while still deleting some of the details. That person who hurt you—does it benefit the reader’s experience to include so much background about the toxic person’s life? Instead of the five pages you’ve devoted, maybe you’ll decide to boil it down to a page. You want the reader to relate to you, and that will be less likely if you’re coming across as over-dramatic, whiny or vengeful.

How about all of those romantic details you shared? A romp down memory lane can be fun, but will you cringe when picturing other people reading this intimate information? How effectively do the details further the narrative or illustrate who you are? You might decide to omit some names or group several experiences into one description.

Memoir authors tend to worry that the people they write about will be angry at them. This is the time to really consider that. Do you want to keep those names in there or leave some out as unnamed characters? Or do you want to drop a story or two altogether?

And what about people who will be insulted that they weren’t named in your memoir? Even this is something to consider.

Be Disciplined and, if Necessary, Ruthless

Indulge, indulge, indulge. When you write, you can indulge yourself and write down your every thought, justify every feeling you’ve ever had. But once you put on the editor’s hat, “indulge” turns to “slash.” Just cross out a lot of that indulgence. You can sense it. You know in your heart that your book will be better without this story or that paragraph. Just be ruthless and cut it.

You don’t have to go into full-out destruction mode, though. You’re not in a 1940s movie, sitting at a typewriter and ripping out pages to tear them up and throw them all over the floor. You’re at a computer. Save your old drafts. It’s unlikely you’ll go back and reinsert passages you’ve deleted, but you never know. Writing is hard, and once you’ve done it you don’t want to have to do it over.

Now Go for the Small Things

As your own editor, you can take a turn at all of that punctuation and grammar stuff. Sentence fragments can be effective, but have you gone a little overboard on them? While true run-on sentences don’t belong in any published work, even if you make them grammatical by placing a conjunction like “and” or “but” after some comma, does that sentence really need to be five lines long? Chop it up.

Reading chapters at a time in one sitting and considering the book as a whole, you’ll notice things that you might not spot when you’re building the narrative at a rate of an hour or two a day. Maybe you’ll see that all of your sentences have the same structure and get tedious, or that you’ve used passive voice way too much, or that you have two descriptions, chapters apart, of the same location.

Or you fall back to using the same wording over and over. You’re always saying things are “irritating,” never “annoying,” “distracting” or “exasperating.” You end every quote with “said…” and never “remarked,” “commented,” “laughed” or “instructed.” Remember that you’re not a reporter; you’re a memoir author. Mix it up a little.

Make Your Second Draft the Best You Can

There may be many more drafts to come, but your second draft should take care of the big problems. If this is the draft you’ll give to a professional editor, make it as clean as possible. You don’t want your editor wasting time on typos.

You may have ten drafts before the manuscript takes the title of “final document.” Each draft should improve on its predecessor. Once you find that you’re making changes but not improvements, it’s time to pass it along to an editor or send it out to agents or create a pdf to self-publish. That’s a hard moment, but a really exciting one.

Are You a Memoir Author Looking for a Theme?

Memoir author looking for a theme depicted as a little girl with binoculars

Sometimes the hardest part of writing a memoir is identifying what it’s really about.

Most memoir authors fall into one of two groups. They either write their memoir to share a compelling episode in their life that comes with lessons for interested readers, or they want to chronicle their entire life for their children and grandchildren.

In both cases, there’s usually a theme. The theme is obvious in the case of authors rolling out a pivotal period of their life, but even with the older person writing a full autobiography, at least one theme tends to emerge—often the simple, relatable theme of starting out in humble surroundings and pushing through to forge a successful, happy life.

The Third Group of Memoir Authors

The third, probably smallest, category of memoir authors comprises people who are primarily writers by either profession or hobby. They enjoy sharing their thoughts and the process of writing. Driven to write, these authors at some point land upon the idea of writing a memoir. They believe, as we do at Write My Memoirs, that every life has interesting stories worth exploring and publishing. But they believe it just a little less than we do!

Some writers in this third group seek best-seller status or hope the book will inspire a screenplay. So while memoir authors in the second group, seeking only to document their lives, don’t really care whether a cohesive theme becomes apparent, this third group needs that theme for their work to be marketable.

Your “Ordinary” Life

If you identify with the third group, you may find your life’s theme to be an elusive target. Especially if you’re young, you may feel that there’s “no there there” yet to write about. I assure you, there is. But you don’t want to contrive some theme just to write a relevant book.

As with any memoir, the key is to be authentic. Maybe you grew up as the child of a single parent, but you had a large extended family that filled in and you never felt it was a hardship. Perhaps when you were a teenager you recovered from a terrible car accident, but you did recover fully and there wasn’t much drama around the collision—the other driver simply misjudged and crashed into you. Let’s say you’re an immigrant and moved to your current homeland ten years ago, but everything went pretty smoothly.

In all of those examples, you may think nothing unusual happened to you beyond the one pivotal event. So many people grow up in single-parent households, and yours was just one of them. Just about everyone has a car accident story; yours would not add to the literature. And you certainly wouldn’t be the first immigrant to share your tale.

Look Closer with a Little Positive Thinking

I just took you through a lot of negative thinking. So let’s flip that to the positive side.

No other person in the world is having exactly the day you’re having right now. Not your next-door neighbor, not your sibling, not your best friend. If your day is not identical to anyone else’s, how could your entire memoir duplicate another memoir?

Think of the experiences you have in common with other people as a strength of your memoir. This is what will get people to relate to your life. Then layer that with the singular you who faced those experiences. Your circumstances were different from other people’s situations even in a similar event, your personality is yours alone, and everything from your resources and support network to the sights/sounds, news headlines of the moment and your own reaction combines to shape any experience you’ve had into a unique narrative.

Now let’s say that you don’t even have that much—no tricky childhood, illness/accident nor major relocation. All you are is an everyday person with everyday experiences. I’d say look deeper. There’s something about your life that isn’t so “everyday.”

Lean Into Your Message

It’s pretty common for memoir authors in this third group to sit down and start writing with no real theme in mind. Then it happens, sometimes well after they’ve started, that they discover a thread running through the work. Maybe it’s very broad, such as the encounters of a person who makes friends easily, or the perspective on life from someone who has always had vivid nighttime dreams. Or maybe it’s just the opposite—an incident so seemingly minor that you don’t even remember it until you find yourself writing about how that one teacher or supervisor, or a comment by a stranger on the bus, set you on a life path that you never thought you’d be following.

See how that happens? Now you’re no longer a memoir author looking for a theme. You have one.

From that thread, you can drill down and identify a message. Really look inside yourself. What are you trying relate? What wisdom do you hope readers will take from your memoir? Complete this sentence: “I hope you read my memoir because you’ll learn _____.”

Have confidence that your story is different enough. The key is how you tell it.

It’s the Writing

I often use Educated by Tara Westover as an example for memoir authors who do not have a famous name. Raised in a religious cult-type environment, Tara has a compelling story to tell but not a unique one. Plenty of children grow up under the thumb of restrictive and even abusive parents, and many, like Tara, go out on their own and grow away from that limited world.

What made Westover’s book a best-seller for months and months was the writing. The summary on the book jacket may spark enough interest in the story to get someone to pick up the book, but excellent writing is what gets that book passed around and recommended over and over, generating sales. While staying on theme also is important, compelling writing will keep the reader invested even if, at times, you meander away from your theme.

So, really, the theme is not your biggest challenge. Writing isn’t that hard, but writing a tight narrative that keeps the reader turning pages takes some practice. If you’re in that third group, while you may have no obvious theme, you have what many author hopefuls lack—a love of writing. You don’t have to force yourself to sit down and bang out page after page. So keep at it. Write, edit and rewrite. Ask friends to read and give you input. Go back to your desk and write more. Your life has something to say.

How to Find Your Writer’s Voice

Writer's voice woman with microphone

Sound like yourself but only like the writer inside you.

“When did you start writing for that company?”

The question caught me off-guard. Like my colleague who was asking it, I’ve focused much of my career writing in and about the professional beauty salon industry. She was referring to an article I’d written for a beauty product distributor, but I knew that the piece had no byline.

“How did you know I wrote that?” I asked her.

She laughed. “Of course that was you,” she said, taking for granted that I knew I had an identifiable writing style. But until then I did not know that my “writer’s voice” was recognizable. And I wasn’t entirely pleased, because I didn’t want everything I wrote for different clients to sound the same.

It did explain why writing had become so much more effortless as I grew more experienced. I just wrote the way I wrote, evolving over time but always sounding like the writer inside myself. By this time, my writer’s voice had become indistinguishable from my brand.

Start with Confidence and Be Yourself

Every time you receive positive feedback when someone reads what you’ve written, you gain confidence. It’s that confidence that leads you to writing in an authentic way that inherently communicates your perspective on, well, everything. Being yourself when you write is the key to finding your writer’s voice.

Think about the essential you and how you would describe yourself not as a writer but as a person. Place yourself at a point on a continuum between opposites like formal/casual, dramatic/low-key, extravert/introvert, teacher/learner, proper/disrupting, obeying/rebelling, cautious/adventurous, traditional/unconventional—I’m sure you can come up with more. As you get to know yourself in this manner, you’ll let your writing reflect your personality.

There’s No Shortcut—You Must Write a Lot

The more you write, the smoother the process becomes. I think that’s what happened to me. Because writing is my career, I’m always writing. I never consciously developed a writer’s voice, but as my work has taken me into different genres, I’ve brought along the thread of me, so even though each project is different, there’s something about it that sounds consistent.

So write! Even if you’re in the middle of a writing project such as a memoir, take a break and write something else. Catch a friend up on what you’ve been doing by sending a long email. Write some flash fiction or poetry. Write an op-ed or letter to the editor—you don’t have to send it anywhere. Or give yourself an assignment such as writing about the funniest thing that’s happened to you this week.

Of Course, Read

Always have something you’re reading. Whether it’s a memoir, a biography, a book of fiction or just a magazine feature article, every piece of writing gives you access to the author’s voice. Maybe you love a particular mystery writer or author of historical fiction. What do you like about the writing?

Try two exercises. First, write a few paragraphs in a style as close as you can to an author you enjoy. Second, take those same paragraphs and “make them your own.” Examine what you’re doing that changes the work to transform it, and that may be your “signature style,” your voice.

Your Voice May be Quiet in the First Draft

My first draft gets the story out, and in that draft specifically I do not consciously write in any voice. Only when I edit and polish and rework the writing do I begin to at least notice some of my own classic writing habits.

For example, I really try not to repeat random words not essential to the topic, or at least not use them close together. So when I read that I wrote, “I stared at him for the longest time,” and three sentences later I say, “She couldn’t stop staring,” you can be sure I will change one or the other. Maybe I glared or she couldn’t stop gazing. The funny thing is that when I do this, I often end up replacing the original word—“stared/staring” in this example—in both instances. I find two preferable words and use those.

So which is my writer’s voice? The first draft when I write to get my ideas down or the more polished version when I’ve put on my editor hat? You may believe that the free-flowing first draft is more representative of my true voice, but I would say it’s the edited second—or tenth—draft. As I read what I’ve written, I hear the cadence and can tell when it’s off. I think about the precision of the words and know when something is not up to my standards. So it’s subsequent drafts that contain the identifying markers of my writer’s voice.

Finally, Don’t Overthink It

Your writer’s voice is already in you. It may not be on paper/screen, but it’s in you. Write frequently and stay aware of signs that you’re developing a recognizable style, but don’t force it. If you keep writing, keep reading and know the essence of who you are, the voice will emerge. As I found out, it may take someone like a friend or colleague to point it out.

2,024 Reasons to Write Your Memoir This Year

2024 reasons to write your memoir

Numerology Offers a Lot of Motivation to Say: New Year, New Book.

Like a lot of people, memoir authors look for signs. Should I write my life story? I’ve started my memoir, but should I finish it? Will my memoir be any good if I write it? Give me a sign. Please!

According to numerologists, the coming year is full of signs that point to: Yes, write your memoir already. Wait no longer.

The First Two-Thousand Reasons

This is a lot to bite off, so let’s swallow the first 2,000 reasons in two big chunks and then take our time chewing on the last 24 reasons. The first 1,000 reasons boil down to the simple fact that you wanna do it. You want to chronicle your entire life or a segment or more of your life. You probably have even more than 1,000 reasons for wanting to write your book. In general, you should do what you want to do as long as it’s legal. So do it.

We can group the second 1,000 reasons as well, which come down to a sort of obligation to live authentically and leave a legacy or some type of inspiration. Your life, every life, is fascinating in its uniqueness. Your life, every life, is worthy of documenting. Your life, every life, provides lessons that you can pass along to others. There are at least 1,000 reasons for someone to want to read about your life and derive inspiration from it.

The Rest of the Reasons for Writing Your Memoir in 2024

Now let’s go more slowly as we tackle the remaining 24 reasons for you to write your memoir this year. I can come up with 24 generic reasons for you to start or complete this project—it makes a perfect New Year’s resolution, writing about your life is cathartic, writing a book is a very satisfying project, you’re not getting any younger, etc. Or you can customize 24 reasons that apply to you in particular. Maybe you have a high-number birthday coming up this year, or your children asked you to write up your life, or the part of your life you want to document has just ended and it’s fresh in your mind. Go ahead and write out those 24 reasons—can’t hurt!

But the 24 reasons I’m supplying here have their foundation in numerology. Even though I don’t believe at all in the non-science of numerology, I’m finding it interesting that the characteristics numerologists are assigning to the year 2024 align extremely well with the goal of writing a memoir. And maybe you do have some belief in this. Those of us who are skeptical still can have some fun and accept whatever motivation the universe seems to be sending us.

I’ll explain them first and then list them 1 through 24 in summary.

The Numerological Process of Evaluating the Year

Numerologists combine three approaches when predicting a year’s mood. First, they take each of the numbers individually. This coming year, then, since I don’t think zero counts, we’ll look at the numbers 2 and 4. Second, they add up the digits—2+0+2+4=8. They use the sum, which is 8 in this case, as the most significant number to analyze. Third, they drop the two-thousand and consider only 24, add those digits, and come up with the number 6.

To me, this means they cover a lot of bases. If 8 doesn’t work that well, they still have 6 and 2 and 4. But I’ll try to keep my snarky comments out of this and get back to taking the leap of faith.

A Close Look at the Numbers 2, 4, 6, and 8

According to The Times of India, the number 2 refers to the moon, and the moon is a sign that indicates money, work, jobs, abundance and emotions. Since there are two incidences of the number 2 in the year 2024, we can expect an abundance of abundance.

The number 4, according to the same source, is associated with Rahu, which is connected to new technology, ideas, opportunities and gains. Rahu is an imaginary shadow planet, so take that signage for what it’s worth.

When we drill into the sum of 2+4, which is 6, we connect to the planet Venus. This softens the year with a focus on love and affection, but it’s accompanied by challenges and growth. Numerologists encourage us to be true to our emotions involving love and affection.

The number 8 is associated with a lot of positivity. You know how a figure 8 loops around with no end? When you think about it, that’s a sideways infinity symbol. So 8 represents eternity and the totality of the universe. Picture it as “what goes around comes around,” and you’ll see why 8 is considered a sign of karma.

The Significance of 2024 Numerology for Memoir

According to horoscope-focused refinery29.com, the Egyptians saw 8 as bringing balance and cosmic order, while in tarot it’s a card of magic and inspired action. That website provides the perfect message for this year’s hopeful memoir authors: “Whenever this tarot card shows up in a reading, the message is: ‘You have everything you need to make stuff happen — so, go for it!’”

That same energy comes up in other descriptions of 2024 numerology. Well and Good quotes numerologist Novalee Wilder, who predicts that 2024 will be a year of “radical honesty and transparency.” That sounds like a candid memoir to me!

The same website notes that another numerologist, Sarah Faith Gottesdiener, urges people to confront “the ways in which you’ve been lying to yourself or holding yourself back from living the way you truly want.” She says it’s a time for finding and nurturing your inner spark and following your heart’s true path. To me, that means that 2024 is the year to stop holding back from being the memoir author your heart wants you to be.

That article paraphrases Gottesdiener’s advice: “Another aligned way to uncover your desires and identify your bigger-picture goals is to self-reflect through journaling. Just being able to put those goals on paper might just point you toward the first step you’ll want to take in 2024 to bring them to life.” Instead of your goals, put your whole memoir down on paper!

Angel Number

Over on astrology.com, they talk about “angel numbers.” You guessed it—2024 is an angel number. This website notes: “Number 2024 is a spiritual awakening number, as it symbolizes the beginning of a spiritual journey, developing your inner wisdom, and trusting your intuition.”

Again, is there any better description of the journey of writing a memoir? To add to that, astrology.com also mentions 2024 as “a positive sign for your career and financial prospects.” If you’re hoping to sell your memoir, better get it out in 2024!

If you haven’t yet put pen to paper or finger to keyboard, make this the year you write that first sentence. If you’re well on your way, decide to finish a first draft by the end of the year. If your first draft has been sitting in a drawer, get past your fear or whatever roadblocks are keeping you from polishing the draft, finding an editor, querying publishers or self-publishing. Get your book finished!

If you’re not feeling the numerology for 2024, I’ll offer some final inspiration by sharing what I learned in my numerology research about the last day of the current year. That will be 12/31/23. Dropping the slashes turns it into 123123. Consider that your count to get started. 123… 123… go!

Here’s the listing 1 through 24:

The number 2 is for the moon, which promises conditions perfect for writing and publishing a memoir:
1. Money
2. Work
3. Abundance
4. Emotions

The number 4 indicates:
5. Ideas
6. Opportunities
7. Gains

Add 2+4 to get the number 6, which offers the full experience of reviewing your life’s important points:
8. Love
9. Affection
10. Challenges
11. Growth

Add 2+0+2+4 to get the number 8, which is associated with words you could pair with what your memoir creates in the world:
12. Eternity
13. Balance and order
14. Inspired action and magic

Based on the full number 2024, numerologists give advice that easily applies to goals of memoir:
15. Stop holding yourself back
16. Live your true desires
17. Find your inner spark
18. Reach levels of radical honesty and transparency
19. Write it all down

2024 is an “angel number” that means:
20. The beginning of a spiritual journey
21. Developing your inner wisdom
22. Trusting your intuition
23. Career advancements and financial increases

The last day of 2023 tells you to get started:
24. 12/31/23 = 123 123 go!

Getting Feedback on Your Memoir Manuscript

Two little girls sharing a book, giving feedback on a memoir

Figure out how many people you will ask to read your book and what information you will want them to provide.

Are you thinking about asking someone to read your memoir manuscript? How many readers? How will you select them? How far into writing the manuscript will you wait before you start asking for feedback on your memoir?

This Story Will Not Go in My Memoir

Back in college, I had to make an oral presentation that would count for most of my grade in my “Myth Into Literature” class. Departing from the Greek, Roman and random other literary myths we were studying, me being me, I decided to focus on American figures—either totally mythical like Paul Bunyan or based in truth with mythical trimmings like Johnny Appleseed and Davy Crockett. It was very fun to research and write this, and I was happy to have settled on a topic that held my interest. I don’t know why I didn’t include a woman, but back then we didn’t put diversity into the equation, and that’s a whole other discussion.

I knew how to write a paper, but I was less confident that I could speak my way through a compelling presentation, so I was more concerned with the delivery than the content. I wanted to practice out loud to minimize my anxiety and avoid a shaky voice, and that would help most if I had a live audience. The night before my presentation, a friend agreed to watch me deliver it, and when I finished he proceeded to list all the problems with every aspect of the presentation. He addressed both the content and the delivery, and I don’t think he had a single positive comment about either one.

I was not going to stay up all night recreating it, and at that point I couldn’t take the emotional risk of trying again with a different friend, so I told myself all sorts of things to neutralize the bad review. My friend was a very smart guy who didn’t do college well; he was into at least year five of a four-year program and nowhere near graduating. I decided that this had to mean he didn’t intuitively understand what professors wanted. I, on the other hand, had good grades and especially did well on papers rather than tests. Or maybe he was lashing out for some reason—trying to undermine my success. He could have been tired, hungry, not feeling well, resentful at having to spend his evening on academics, whatever.

Be Confident in Yourself

Eventually I recovered enough to stop replaying his reaction in my mind. I read over my presentation one more time, and to me it sounded perfectly fine. Planning to trust in my own abilities, I just had to keep my nerves in check and deliver it, and the following day that’s what I did. I’m not sure what my grade was, but something like A minus rings a bell.

Now, it’s been a long time since college. Since I can barely remember what I did last week, this episode in college must have created a significant impact since it has stuck with me. My conclusion at the time: So much for second-guessing yourself after a trusted friend criticizes your work. I didn’t run my stuff by anyone after that. If I liked it, my own evaluation was good enough.

But Verify

Do not learn that lesson from me. In time, I switched my conclusion to just the opposite—I had needed more feedback, not less. If I’d asked another five people to listen, I’m guessing that I would have received enough positive reaction to consider the first reviewer just an outlier.

I don’t know if that small episode in my life influenced the way I advise memoir authors today, but I do lean toward asking a lot of people to read through the book—especially the beginning of the book. By definition, people are the public, and the public is probably where you’ll be marketing your memoir if you’re not writing only for your family and friends. People have all different strengths and interests, and even if you discount some of the comments that come your way, I think a range of opinions will benefit you.

The people you’ll ask will not, or at least not necessarily, be formal editors. You’ve probably heard them referred to as “beta readers.” The major question you want them to answer is very simple: Does each page make you want to turn to the next? Does each chapter leave you with curiosity about what will happen?

People to Choose

Let’s say you decide against crowdsourcing strangers online, which is probably a good decision because you don’t know where your book’s words could end up. So instead, you look around your own circle. Who will make a good reader to give you feedback?

  • People named in your memoir. I’m not talking about someone you document as doing great harm to you. Most authors hope that person will never see the book at all, much less ahead of publication. But people you mention just as playing a role in your life—parents, siblings, friends, colleagues—might describe an episode that will augment or differ from your memories. You’re better off knowing that before you publish your book. It could be a simple fact that you remembered wrong about the person or maybe details about an event that would add color to your narrative. If you interviewed someone for your book, I think that person should get a preview of how you wrote up the information, especially if you don’t want your book to harm your relationship with the person.
  • People who love you—or at least like you! It’s risky to ask someone to read your book, because criticism is hard to hear. Readers who care about you will lovingly use a velvet hammer in sharing any negative opinions.
  • Avid readers. People who read a lot can discern the difference between an amateurish book and one that sounds as if it were professionally written. They can identify holes in the narrative and spots that are repetitive. They can alert you to passages that sound forced or just unnatural. And they certainly can address the question about whether the read was compelling enough to make them want to finish the book.
  • People with a writing, editing or English literature background. You’re not asking anyone to edit your work. But someone who has formal training in writing or book development can identify why a section doesn’t work that well. Maybe there’s a run-on sentence, a dangling modifier or too much passive voice.

If you hear the same problem from several readers, take it seriously. If one person you trust a lot mentions something, give it a lot of thought as well even if no one else brings that up. Then, ultimately, just as I learned with my oral presentation in college, you have to trust your gut. It’s your story, and you get to tell it however you like.

Start Journaling Just In Case You Decide to Write a Memoir

One hand on a keyboard and the other holding a pen over paper

Your memory is probably not as good as you believe it is

If you think you may want to write a memoir someday and you’re not journaling, start now! Reflect on your day. Write about your views of the world right now. Describe where you live and how you feel about living there. Share your thoughts about the important people in your life. Next, start finding your memories. Relate how you feel now to previous events in your life. On your mother’s birthday, write about growing up with her as your mom. When you travel, write about the last time you visited that site or how it reminds you of previous trips you’ve made. Include names, dates and locations. All of this will be invaluable if you ever sit down to write your memoir.

Let’s say you’re in your 40s, and 20 years from now you decide to write your entire autobiography or a memoir focused on a particular time period of your life. A lot of people wouldn’t know where to start. When you have a journal, you know where to start—by rereading your own writings about your life.

Don’t Trust Your Memory

Everything that you say you’ll never forget? You will forget much of it. You will confuse the details of different events. You may even remember vivid dreams as reality. Later in your life when you compare notes with friends and siblings, you’ll be surprised how much your version of what happened differs from theirs.

Another way to keep your stories accurate is to tell them verbally. Talk to your children about your own childhood and reminisce with friends about old times. The more you tell your own stories, the more you’ll keep the facts straight. Then when you go to write them down, you won’t have to dig into your brain too far!

But journaling still works better than verbal storytelling. In addition to getting the facts down, journaling helps you understand your own emotions. That’s why therapists frequently suggest journaling. Whether you’re trying to manage stress, face a past traumatic event, work through relationship issues or jumpstart a creative project, writing can be a valuable tool to use toward your goal.

Your Story is More Than Just Facts

You can do a lot of research and fact-checking online, but not everything from decades ago is as available as you might expect. Local newspaper articles may be gone or accessible only with special permission. Records from your old job, school, camp or military unit may be hard to come by. So while you may have a difficult time collecting information from your life history, at least you can document everything happening from now on.

The “color” in a memoir comes from descriptions of everything surrounding the simple facts. All of that is important to note in your journal. Maybe you were involved in a crime or other event that made the newspapers, and you have all of the clippings from that time. But what were you wearing? What could you see from where you were? Trees or sand or houses? Indoor walls, furniture, staircases? What smells were you picking up? What sounds were you hearing—conversation or a dripping faucet or the eerie silence of falling snow? Your memoir will benefit from this level of detail.

A Journal Keeper is a Writer

The other big benefit that comes from journaling regularly is that it gets you into the habit of writing. When you do sit down to write your memoir, you won’t have to adjust your mindset. You’ll know where you sit to write, how much quiet you need, what objects or snacks you like having handy, and what time of day works best for you.

Also, you’ll have your technology figured out. When you think of journaling, you may picture a beautiful, leather-bound book just waiting for your handwritten entries and additional scrapbooking touches. But a keyboard works as well as a pen, and a computer keeps your work from getting burned or spilled on or misplaced. Email your work to yourself, save it to the cloud or copy it on a jump drive so that you won’t have the worry of losing it.

When you journal regularly, you’ll have confidence that you won’t fall to pieces when you see that first blank screen or page. You’ll already be a writer.

What Matthew Perry Taught Us About the Addiction Memoir Category

Matthew Perry's memoir

As fans continue to struggle with the death of Friends star Matthew Perry, much attention has centered on Perry’s memoir, Friends, Lovers, and the Big Terrible Thing, published just about exactly one year ago. The book earned generally favorable reviews, and Perry supported it with a series of televised interviews including, most notably, an hour-long conversation with Diane Sawyer on ABC.

Perry’s memoir could be called an “addiction memoir,” a “redemption memoir” or both. Many of you may be writing or hoping to write a similar type of book that chronicles your journey as you overcame an addiction or triumphed over a different life challenge. You may not be asked to do a lot of TV interviews after your memoir is published, but you can follow some of Perry’s writing concepts to make your book a good read.

What can we learn from Matthew Perry’s memoir? Quite a bit:

  1. Overcoming a huge obstacle makes you want to write a memoir. Beating addiction is necessary in order to live a long and fulfilling life, so you have a lot to celebrate if you’re able to conquer addiction. The natural motivation for many people to chronicle their journey is to help the next addict. In a quote and video clip that’s gone viral since Perry’s death, he tells an interviewer: “The best thing about me, bar none, is if someone comes up to me and says, ‘I can’t stop drinking, can you help me?’ I can say, ‘yes,’ and follow up and do it.” He established a clinic for addicted men, but his memoir also was part of that effort to help people.
  2. Perhaps even more than most memoir topics, this one requires utter candor. If you don’t want to feel vulnerable, you probably can’t write an addiction memoir. Perry is brutally honest, not concerned with whether he’s giving “Chandler” a bad name or anything like that. For readers to relate to your saga, you have to come across as baring all and hiding nothing.
  3. Don’t put off writing your memoir. No matter what the topic of your memoir, as soon as the arc of your story is resolved, start writing. You may live much longer than Matthew Perry, who was only 54 when he died. But life goes quickly, and lots of things can get in the way of finding enough time to write a book. While you’re still able to create and the story is fresh in your mind, start writing it. You don’t want to regret letting your life story go untold.
  4. You don’t have to wait for a final ending. No matter what your redemption story involves, you never really know whether you’ve ultimately succeeded in defeating your demons. If you came out of an abusive situation, you don’t know for sure that you won’t find yourself inadvertently stuck in another abusive relationship. If you’ve recovered from a serious illness such as cancer, you can’t be certain that you won’t have to battle it again someday. And if you’ve overcome addiction, there’s no guarantee that you won’t experience a relapse. Matthew Perry continued to have medical problems related to his previous drug and alcohol use. If you have a redemption story to tell, what you do know is that you landed on the other side of something frightening.
  5. When you talk about other people, keep the negativity confined to the facts. One big concern for many memoir authors is how much they can divulge about someone else’s bad behavior. As long as you stick to the truth as you remember it, you can write about someone else. Matthew Perry wrote about his childhood marked by his parents’ divorce. It didn’t make his parents look great, but that’s part of the creative freedom an author gets. However, he also made an unfunny, unnecessary and hurtful joke about Keanu Reeves that had nothing to do with the story he was telling. He received so much blowback from this throwaway line that he removed it from the book in subsequent printings. You don’t have to reveal every opinion you have about everyone you mention. You’re better off complimenting people if you choose, rolling out the facts, and letting your description of the action speak for itself rather than specifically trashing the people who make it into your memoir.
  6. Readers, including friends and family, may be more supportive than you think. Today, addiction doesn’t have the stigma it used to carry. If you feel compelled to tell your story, don’t be afraid to admit what you went through. Don’t feel embarrassed that you stayed with an abusive partner or gave into the temptation of alcohol or drugs. Remember that much of your audience is looking to you for guidance; they’re not out to criticize you. Complete honesty wins over a lot of people.

For many memoir authors, the catharsis gained from writing their story serves as some of the best therapy for getting on with their lives. You want people to know how you faced that challenge and what worked for you to reclaim your own life. Having that book as a reaffirmation that you didn’t back down, didn’t give up, is a reassuring reminder of how strong you are.

When and How to End Each Chapter of Your Memoir

Woman sitting on library floor with book

Different Writing Devices Produce Different Effects

How do you know at what point one chapter of your memoir ends and the next begins? Should you have sub-chapters within chapters? As with everything relating to memoir, you can make your own rules. But let’s take the second question first.

Be Disciplined and Edit

I’m not a fan of separating a memoir into three or four parts and then doing chapters within each part—or worse, letting each part go on and on without dividing it into chapters. If you’re writing a history of the world, maybe you want to split that up a bit, devoting Part I to the prehistoric world and subdividing that into the stone age, the bronze age and the iron age. But look, your memoir is not the history of the world. It’s a close look at a shorter time frame. Subcategories within categories can have the reader picturing your outline or storyboard, and listing Parts I, II and III can be kind of a spoiler, because readers see how your life divides up.

So let’s assume you go with ordinary chapters. According to Scribe Media, an average nonfiction book of 50,000 words typically has 12 chapters. The math of that comes to 4,166 words per chapter, or let’s call it 4,000 words per chapter. I think that’s a fair guideline but nothing you should consider carved in stone. If one chapter feels complete at 2,500 words and another not until 7,500 words, rely on your sense of what works.

Of course, you still should always look at your work with a critical eye. Will the reader want to slog through that longer-than-average chapter? Let’s say you devote a whole chapter to high school. Does it feel longer than the four years of high school seemed to last? If you didn’t get along with any of your teachers, maybe five examples are one too many and you can cut the weakest of them.

If you have an exceptionally short chapter, make sure the content justifies its own space. Perhaps the information can be woven throughout a few other chapters. Or for a simpler solution, maybe you can tack it onto the end of the previous chapter or the beginning of the next.

Organic Timing for a Chapter’s End

I haven’t experienced much of a struggle in determining when it’s time to end a chapter. As you get used to writing, your writer’s voice will just grow quiet when you’ve finished what you have to say about that segment of your memoir.

Endings are pretty obvious especially when you write your memoir in chronological order. If, again, the chapter is about high school, graduation or prom will pretty much cap it off. If the chapter is more of a theme that spans several time periods, such as your difficulties getting along with your sister, you will know when you’ve shared all the important points of that relationship.

Be Deliberate When Ending Each Chapter

It’s so helpful to read memoirs even as you write yours. When we read as readers, we’re interested in following the story. But when we read as writers, we’re also observing all the techniques that hook the reader, make the story flow, keep the information clear. So be mindful of the various ways a skilled author ends a chapter. You’ll discover that you have a choice at the end of each chapter. To take one of the common approaches to ending a chapter, you might:

  • Build suspense. This is probably the most common device. It doesn’t have to be a big cliffhanger, but you always want your reader to have trouble putting the book down. A chapter’s last sentence can easily make the reader curious about what will happen next. Try something like: “When I shoved the diploma into my jacket pocket, I felt the key I’d dropped into the pocket hours earlier and knew I had to figure out what door that key would open.”
  • Foreshadow. Similar to developing suspense, foreshadowing gives the reader a glimmer of what’s coming next but offers a bigger hint. You can foreshadow what’s coming immediately in the following chapter or in an episode that occurs several or more chapters later. In either case, try something like: “Even as I watched him drive away and my breathing finally returned to a normal pace, I had a feeling our paths would someday cross again.”
  • Review/reflect. Like a short story, a chapter can be its own vignette that circles back to a theme or message. Just be careful not to be preachy or “authorsplain.” If you’ve made your point through the narrative, you don’t have to boil down that point for the reader. But you still can drive it home a bit: “That quaint town helped me see beauty in nature and appreciate the value of every individual who entered my life, but it wasn’t going to hold me back from discovering what else was out there for me.”
  • Increase the reader’s emotional connection to you. A memoir can reveal your darker side, so you have to make sure you don’t turn the reader against you. Consider ending a particularly brutal chapter on an emotional note: “His reassuring nod nearly brought me to tears. It was all I needed to be sure that I was making the right decision—owning up to my mistakes while still following my heart.”
  • Put the reader in your shoes. To some extent, your entire memoir is intended to resonate with the reader. Support this by ending a chapter here and there with a sort of invitation to readers to consider what they would do in that position. You can combine this with building suspense: “The three options would lead me down completely different paths, and I knew I could choose only one of them.”
  • Summarize. I wouldn’t use this technique often, because you shouldn’t have to repeat what you’re trying to get across. But it does add variety to your chapters’ endings. It can be something like: “So that was it. I’d tried everything the doctors had recommended. I did the hard work in therapy, had the MRI to check for physical problems, propped myself up with a supportive community and even changed jobs. Nothing worked, and at this point I wanted to just give up.”

You can probably think of more types of chapter endings on your own. Keep in mind that in a first draft you don’t even need to be concerned with this. It comes with the polishing—that’s the great thing about a second draft! And once you get the hang of ending a chapter, it will flow for you. Writing is like anything else—practice improves your outcome.

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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!