I’ve been reading advance reviews of Dick Cheney’s memoirs, due for release today, and in some ways your memoirs are probably no different from those of the former U.S. vice president. Sure, you’re unlikely to be interviewed on TV to talk about your book, but let’s examine the similarities.
The early reviewers report that Cheney devotes a lot more pages to justifying his actions than to apologizing for them. And who wouldn’t? I doubt that you are writing your memoirs as a way to express a bunch of mea culpas. Typically, memoir authors take this opportunity to explain actions or provide previously unpublicized details and background, but in a way that encourages the reader to agree with the wisdom of those actions or decisions. This may involve criticizing others who disagreed with you at the time, but throwing someone under the bus is a small price to pay for getting your side of the story out there or patting yourself on the back a little.
If you’re writing a compelling book, Cheney’s memoir is like your memoirs in another way, too: it follows a series of episodes. Conflict, challenges, forks in the road that could lead in different directions—all of that keeps the reader interested. You’d be wise to consider that as you write. You don’t have to “make heads explode,??? as Cheney predicts his book will do, but a few sparks couldn’t hurt.