Memoirists: Can You Remain Anonymous?

Memorists: Can You Remain Anonymous?
Lately at Write My Memoirs we’ve had customers wanting to publish their memoir with some level of anonymity. On the surface, this seems like a simple request—just publish under a pen name and, if you really want to hide, choose a pen name of the opposite sex.
But that takes you to the next decision. There seems to be no point in changing your name if all of the other people you talk about in your book have their real names. You can’t trace your parents’ heritage and then claim to be a stranger. Who else would write about your ancestry? Only you. So that means you’ll have to change all of the names in your book. If you think people might recognize the situations you’re describing, you’ll need to disguise your work further by changing the location and some of the details of what happened. After all of that, what have you accomplished? You’ve created a work of fiction.
As I see it, there’s no such thing as an anonymous memoir. You’re either telling your life story, or you’re writing a novel based on some events that actually took place. I don’t see much gray area between the two. People have lots of good reasons for wanting to publish an autobiography anonymously—usually because others involved in the story will be hurt or feel betrayed to see themselves in print. Sometimes authors even put their safety at risk when they publish. But the whole reason you want to write your memoir is to get your story told. There’s no way to do that honestly without attaching your name to your work.

Lately at Write My Memoirs we’ve had customers wanting to publish their memoir with some level of anonymity. On the surface, this seems like a simple request—just publish under a pen name and, if you really want to hide, choose a pen name of the opposite sex.

But that takes you to the next decision. There seems to be no point in changing your name if all of the other people you talk about in your book have their real names. You can’t trace your parents’ heritage and then claim to be a stranger. Who else would write about your ancestry? Only you. So that means you’ll have to change all of the names in your book. If you think people might recognize the situations you’re describing, you’ll need to disguise your work further by changing the location and some of the details of what happened. After all of that, what have you accomplished? You’ve created a work of fiction.

As I see it, there’s no such thing as an anonymous memoir. You’re either telling your life story, or you’re writing a novel based on some events that actually took place. I don’t see much gray area between the two. People have lots of good reasons for wanting to publish an autobiography anonymously—usually because others involved in the story will be hurt or feel betrayed to see themselves in print. Sometimes authors even put their safety at risk when they publish. But the whole reason you want to write your memoir is to get your story told. There’s no way to do that honestly without attaching your name to your work.

Memoir: “Changing the Narrative”

Memoir: “Changing the Narrative”
This morning here in “Chicagoland,” as we call it, we awoke to more snow falling—no surprise there—but also to the news that our city’s own Jesse Jackson Jr. is planning to write a memoir. The announcement comes as Jackson is awaiting sentencing after he and his wife pleaded guilty to a bit of crime—filing false tax returns for Sandi, mail fraud and making false statements for Jesse Jr.—that could land Jesse in prison for up to nearly five years. Jackson also has been diagnosed with bipolar disorder.
An unnamed source told The Chicago Tribune that Jackson wants to write the memoir in order to “clear up his legacy” and, since “he has nothing else to do right now,” he’s “desperately trying to change the narrative of his life story.”
As I’ve noted before in blog posts, this is a common reason to write an autobiography, even for people who are not facing jail time and are not famous. It’s human nature to want to clear up and clean up your legacy by correcting the perceived “facts” of your life, justifying your behavior, explaining your intentions and, perhaps, expressing contrition for some of what you’ve done. It’s tricky, though. This type of memoir can sound whiny and be seen as making excuses or blaming other people for your bad decisions. But it also can be very satisfying. Even if you don’t change anyone’s mind, you’ve had the gratification of telling your side of your own life story.

This morning here in “Chicagoland,” as we call it, we awoke to more snow falling—no surprise there—but also to the news that our city’s fallen hero, Jesse Jackson Jr., is planning to write a memoir. The announcement comes as Jackson is awaiting sentencing after pleading guilty to a bit of crime—conspiracy to commit wire fraud, mail fraud and making false statements—that could land Jesse in prison for up to nearly five years. Jackson also has been diagnosed with bipolar disorder.

An unnamed source told The Chicago Tribune that Jackson wants to write the memoir in order to “clear up his legacy” and, since “he has nothing else to do right now,” he’s “desperately trying to change the narrative of his life story.”

As I’ve noted before in blog posts, this is a common reason to write an autobiography, even for people who are not facing jail time and are not famous. It’s human nature to want to clear up and clean up your legacy by correcting the perceived “facts” of your life, justifying your behavior, explaining your intentions and, perhaps, expressing contrition for some of what you’ve done. It’s tricky, though. This type of memoir can sound whiny and be seen as making excuses or blaming other people for your bad decisions. But it also can be very satisfying. Even if you don’t change anyone’s mind as you attempt to “change the narrative,” you have the gratification of telling your side of your own life story. And everyone has the right to do that.

Why We’re Drawn To Biography, Part IV

Why We’re Drawn To Biography, Part IV
So far in this blog series we’ve been focusing on famous authors. But they’re not the only ones who write popular memoirs. Just this past Sunday, the New York Times Book Review section featured an essay on the “self-help” memoir. Because there are now so many of these books, they have formed a “new subgenre,” maintains the essay’s author, Rebecca Tuhus-Dubrow, who says that the modern self-help memoir is a “a kind of long-form personal narrative fused with life coaching.” The author of such a memoir, typically not a famous person, has achieved a positive change and writes a book coaching readers in how to do the same. “The selling point is not that their challenges are exceptional, but that they are common,” Tuhus-Dubrow writes. “Like us, the authors are just trying to find true love or raise good kids or enjoy life more.”
Some of you who are crafting your stories on WriteMyMemoirs fall into this group. You write your memoir not only to document the facts of your life, but also to share with friends, and perhaps the world, how you managed to achieve a level of happiness or peace of mind.
“The journey from wretchedness to redemption is one of the most common narrative arcs in memoir,” write Tuhus-Dubrow. “But rather than redemption, the self-help memoir culminates in improvement….The self-help memoirist goes from suboptimal to systematically upgraded.” By writing out the steps of progress, the autobiographer gives readers a method to duplicate the achievement.

So far in this blog series we’ve been focusing on famous authors. But they’re not the only ones who write popular memoirs. Just this past Sunday, the New York Times Book Review section featured an essay, “I Change, You Change,” on the “self-help” memoir. Because there are now so many of these books, they have formed a “new subgenre,” maintains the essay’s author, Rebecca Tuhus-Dubrow, who says that the modern self-help memoir is a “a kind of long-form personal narrative fused with life coaching.” The author of such a memoir, typically not a famous person, has achieved a positive change and writes a book coaching readers in how to do the same. “The selling point is not that their challenges are exceptional, but that they are common,” Tuhus-Dubrow writes. “Like us, the authors are just trying to find true love or raise good kids or enjoy life more.”

Some of you who are crafting your stories on WriteMyMemoirs fall into this group. You write your memoir not only to document the facts of your life, but also to share with friends, and perhaps the world, how you managed to achieve a level of happiness or peace of mind.

“The journey from wretchedness to redemption is one of the most common narrative arcs in memoir,” write Tuhus-Dubrow. “But rather than redemption, the self-help memoir culminates in improvement….The self-help memoirist goes from suboptimal to systematically upgraded.” By writing out the steps of progress, the autobiographer gives readers a method to duplicate the achievement.

Why We’re Drawn To Biography, Part III

Why We’re Drawn To Biography, Part III
In this blog arc, we’re exploring why nonfiction best-seller lists nearly always include, and are sometimes dominated by, biographies and autobiographies, and also why most of them focus on famous people. What’s there left to learn about a very famous person whose life unfolds daily in newspapers and magazines? Take Abraham Lincoln for example. In the past 150 years, hasn’t everything about him, and particularly his assassination, already been written? Yet today we still seem to be quite taken with our 16th president, as evidenced by Bill O’Reilley’s best-seller Killing Lincoln and the two 2012 movies Lincoln and Lincoln: Vampire Hunter (okay, perhaps that one is fiction). Other names on the best-seller list—Winston Churchill, Joseph Kennedy, Bruce Springsteen—what are we still hoping to learn about them we don’t already know?
Secrets! We’d like to know the “real” story behind some action or development, or we’re hoping to hear a confession about how someone felt about someone else, or we want to know a little tidbit never before revealed. Certainly someone writing a memoir will share with us some deep, dark secret; exposing a love affair is a popular choice.
Sometimes it’s just about the point of view. No matter how much has been written about a fascinating person, when a different author tackles the familiar material there’s bound to be a nugget of something new in the biography. And when the book is a memoir, we can be sure we’ve never before heard the story from that point of view.

In this blog arc, we’re exploring why nonfiction best-seller lists nearly always include, and are sometimes dominated by, biographies and autobiographies, and also why most of them focus on famous people. What’s left to learn about a very famous person whose life unfolds daily in newspapers and magazines? Take Abraham Lincoln for example. In the past 150 years, hasn’t everything about him, and particularly his assassination, already been written? Yet today we still seem to be quite taken with our 16th president, as evidenced by Bill O’Reilley’s best-seller Killing Lincoln and the two 2012 movies Lincoln and Lincoln: Vampire Hunter (okay, perhaps that one is fiction). Other names on the best-seller list—Winston Churchill, Joseph Kennedy, Bruce Springsteen—what are we still hoping to learn about them we don’t already know?

Secrets! We’d like to know the “real” story behind some action or development, or we’re hoping to hear a confession about how someone felt about someone else, or we want to know a little tidbit never before revealed. Certainly someone writing a memoir will share with us some deep, dark secret; exposing a love affair is a popular choice.

Sometimes it’s just about the point of view. No matter how much has been written about a fascinating person, when a different author tackles the familiar material there’s bound to be a nugget of something new in the biography. And when the book is a memoir, we can be sure we’ve never before heard the story from that point of view.

Why We’re Drawn To Biography, Part II

Why We’re Drawn To Biography, Part II
As we discovered last week, every nonfiction best-seller list is peppered by, and sometimes dominated by, well-crafted biographies and autobiographies. The lion’s share of these life stories focus on the famous and infamous. From heads of state and war generals to rock stars and athletes, famous people fascinate us. On the dark side, we also want to know all about political assassins, dictators and Mafiosos.
Ordinary human nature is intriguing enough, but when the person rises to become a household name, we enjoy tracing the entire life. How did the person become famous? Was it a level of genius or talent—or evil—that seemed to be there from birth and would stand out no matter what? Was it the upbringing? Circumstances and luck?
We’re curious for a lot of reasons. Some people read these stories looking for a sort of playbook: what route should I take to become a U.S. president, or how can I raise my child to be the next Major League home run hitter? If the subject hails from royalty or generational wealth, the story lets us peek into a world to which we have no other access; we can live vicariously for the length of the book. We’re interested, too, in what goes on in the mind of a criminal, perhaps to make sure that we or our children are not headed in that direction.
There’s one more reason we love reading about famous people. Check back next time for that one!

As we discovered last week, every nonfiction best-seller list is peppered by, and sometimes dominated by, well-crafted biographies and autobiographies. The lion’s share of this genre focuses on the famous and infamous. From heads of state and war generals to rock stars and athletes, famous people fascinate us. On the dark side, we also want to know all about political assassins, dictators and Mafiosos.

Ordinary human nature is intriguing enough, but when the person rises to become a household name, we enjoy tracing the entire life. How did the person become famous? Was it a level of genius or talent—or evil—that seemed to be there from birth and would stand out no matter what? Was it the upbringing? Circumstances and luck?

We’re curious for a lot of reasons. Some people read these stories looking for a sort of playbook: what route should I take to become a U.S. president, or how can I raise my child to be the next Major League home run hitter? If the subject hails from royalty or generational wealth, a memoir or biography lets us peek into a world to which we have no other access; we can live vicariously for the length of the book. We’re interested, too, in what goes on in the mind of a criminal, perhaps to make sure that we or our children are not headed in that direction.

There’s one more reason we love reading about famous people. Check back next time for that one!

Why People Are Drawn To Biography, Part I

Why We’re Drawn To Biography, Part I
It’s not difficult to figure out why someone would write a memoir. People have all sorts of reasons for wanting to examine their lives, record the facts and share their memories and point of view. But what compels people to read about others’ lives? Check the New York Times best-seller list of nonfiction any week of the year. You’ll typically find that biographies and autobiographies dominate the list. People are undisputedly interested in reading real-life accounts of real lives.
Look at this week’s NYTimes list, for example, and you’ll find this list of nonfiction with the highest sales:
Killing Kennedy, by Bill O’Reilly and Martin Dugard, recounting the events surrounding the 1963 Kennedy assassination.
Thomas Jefferson, by Jon Meacham, celebrating Jefferson’s skills as a practical politician.
Killing Lincoln, by Bill O’Reilly and Martin Dugard, on the events surrounding the assassination of Abraham Lincoln
No Easy Day, by Mark Owen with Kevin Maurer, an account by a former member of the Navy SEALs of the mission that killed bin Laden.
America Again, by Stephen Colbert, Richard Dahm, Paul Dinello, Barry Julien, Tom Purcell et al., satirical advice on how to bring America back from the brink.
Unbroken, by Laura Hillenbrand, an Olympic runner’s story of survival as a WWII prisoner.
The Signal and the Noise, by Nate Silver, an analysis of predictions.
Bruce, by Peter A. Carlin, a biography of Bruce Springsteen.
Roll Me Up and Smoke Me When I Die, an autobiography by country icon Willie Nelson.
Behind the Beautiful Forevers, by Katherine Boo, a report on families living in a Mumbai slum.
Wild, by Cheryl Strayed, a memoir about the author’s 1,100-mile hike along the Pacific Crest Trail.
A Higher Call, by Adam Makos with Larry Alexander, about an encounter between an American pilot and a German pilot in the skies over 1943 Germany.
Waging Heavy Peace, a memoir by rocker Neil Young.
The Last Lion, by William Manchester and Paul Reid, a partial biography of Winston Churchill.
The Patriarch, by David Nasaw, a biography of Joseph P. Kennedy.
Quiet, by Susan Cain, a close look at the introverted personality.
Total it up, and you’ll see that 10 of the top 16 sellers are biographies or autobiographies. Check back here next week and we’ll talk about why this literary genre is so popular.

It’s not difficult to figure out why someone would write a memoir. People have all sorts of reasons for wanting to examine their lives, record the facts and share their memories and point of view. But what compels people to read about others’ lives? Check the New York Times best-seller list of nonfiction any week of the year. You’ll typically find that biographies and autobiographies dominate the list. People are undisputedly interested in reading real-life accounts of real lives.

Look at this week’s NYTimes list, for example, and you’ll find this list of nonfiction with the highest sales:

  1. Killing Kennedy, by Bill O’Reilly and Martin Dugard, recounting the events surrounding the 1963 Kennedy assassination.
  2. Thomas Jefferson, by Jon Meacham, celebrating Jefferson’s skills as a practical politician.
  3. Killing Lincoln, by Bill O’Reilly and Martin Dugard, on the events surrounding the assassination of Abraham Lincoln.
  4. No Easy Day, by Mark Owen with Kevin Maurer, an account by a former member of the Navy SEALs of the mission that killed bin Laden.
  5. America Again, by Stephen Colbert, Richard Dahm, Paul Dinello, Barry Julien, Tom Purcell et al., satirical advice on how to bring America back from the brink.
  6. Unbroken, by Laura Hillenbrand, an Olympic runner’s story of survival as a WWII prisoner.
  7. The Signal and the Noise, by Nate Silver, an analysis of predictions.
  8. Bruce, by Peter A. Carlin, a biography of Bruce Springsteen.
  9. Roll Me Up and Smoke Me When I Die, an autobiography by country music icon Willie Nelson.
  10. Behind the Beautiful Forevers, by Katherine Boo, a report on families living in a Mumbai slum.
  11. Wild, by Cheryl Strayed, a memoir about the author’s 1,100-mile hike along the Pacific Crest Trail.
  12. A Higher Call, by Adam Makos with Larry Alexander, about an encounter between an American pilot and a German pilot in the skies over 1943 Germany.
  13. Waging Heavy Peace, a memoir by rocker Neil Young.
  14. The Last Lion, by William Manchester and Paul Reid, a partial biography of Winston Churchill.
  15. The Patriarch, by David Nasaw, a biography of Joseph P. Kennedy.
  16. Quiet, by Susan Cain, a close look at the introverted personality.

Total it up, and you’ll see that 10 of the top 16 sellers are biographies or autobiographies. Check back here next week and we’ll talk about why this literary genre is so popular.

Best Memoirs of 2012

The votes are in! GoodReads.com asks people to vote for the books they’ve enjoyed most during the current year. In the memoirs/autobiography category, the memoir that landed on top—Wild by Cheryl Strayed—received 8,200+ votes, nearly double the number of votes as the runner-up. The memoir is summarized by GoodReads as “powerful, blazingly honest and inspiring…a 1,100 mile solo hike that broke down a young woman reeling from catastrophe—and built her back up again.”
Also receiving roughly 3,000 votes or more were:
Paris In Love, which author and professor Eloise James wrote to chronicle her relocation to, and subsequent love affair with, the City of Lights.
The End of Your Life Book Club, a recollection of the books and conversations author Will Schwalbe and his dying mother shared in the last two years of his mother’s life.
No Easy Day: The Firsthand Account of the Mission That Killed Osama Bin Laden, probably the most well-known memoir on the list. Written by Mark Owen and Kevin Maurer, it gives readers a view of Bin Laden’s demise through the eyes of a Navy Seal who was there.
Mrs. Kennedy and Me: An Intimate Memoir, written with Lisa McCubbin by Clint Hill, a Secret Service agent assigned to protect Jackie Kennedy throughout the JFK presidency.
Mortality, the memoir bestselling author Christopher Hitchens tackled upon learning that he would have limited time due to esophageal cancer.
Some Assembly Required: A Journal of My Son’s First Son, a sort of sequel to author Anne Lamott’s Operating Instructions, about how Lamott handled becoming a grandmother unexpectedly when her son was 19.

The votes are in! GoodReads.com asks people to vote for the books they’ve enjoyed most during the current year. In the memoirs/autobiography category, the memoir that landed on top—Wild by Cheryl Strayed—received 8,200+ votes, nearly double the number of votes as the runner-up. Wild is summarized by GoodReads as “powerful, blazingly honest and inspiring…a 1,100 mile solo hike that broke down a young woman reeling from catastrophe—and built her back up again.”

Also receiving roughly 3,000 votes or more were:

  • Paris In Love, which author and professor Eloise James wrote to chronicle her relocation to, and subsequent love affair with, the City of Lights.
  • The End of Your Life Book Club, a recollection of the books and conversations author Will Schwalbe and his dying mother shared in the last two years of his mother’s life.
  • No Easy Day: The Firsthand Account of the Mission That Killed Osama Bin Laden, probably the most well-known memoir on the list. Written by Mark Owen and Kevin Maurer, it gives readers a view of Bin Laden’s demise through the eyes of a Navy Seal who was there.
  • Mrs. Kennedy and Me: An Intimate Memoir, written with Lisa McCubbin by Clint Hill, a Secret Service agent assigned to protect Jackie Kennedy throughout the JFK presidency.
  • Mortality, the memoir bestselling author Christopher Hitchens tackled upon learning that he would have limited time due to esophageal cancer.
  • Some Assembly Required: A Journal of My Son’s First Son, a sort of sequel to author Anne Lamott’s Operating Instructions, about how Lamott handled becoming a grandmother unexpectedly when her son was 19.

Top Memoirs for Summer 2012

Top Memoirs for Summer 2012
I love this—“When you finish a memoir there’s a sense of satisfaction no novel can give: you’ve been let in on a truth about another person, living or alive.” That observation comes from Forbes blogger Meghan Casserly, who has declared this to be the Summer of the Memoir. Combining Meghan’s Top 10 memoirs for women released this year with the five favorite 2012 celebrity autobiographies listed by The Telegraph blogger Mark Sanderson, here are 15 memoirs worth a read during the remaining summer days:
Mimi Alford, Once Upon A Secret: My Affair With President John F Kennedy and its Aftermath, recalling a youthful, not altogether voluntary, affair.
Harry Belafonte, My Song: A Memoir of Art, Race and Defiance, for more than just “Banana Boat” fans.
Monique Colver, An Uncommon Friendship, tracing the effects her husband’s mental illness had on their marriage.
Maggie Fergusson, Michael Morpurgo: War Child to War Horse, which sounds like a biography rather than an autobiography but that’s only because she sees herself as a combination of six “selfs.”
Gabrielle Hamilton, Blood, Bones & Butter, a sort of food memoir from the owner of Prune, a restaurant in NYC.
Diane Keaton, Then Again, a self-analysis with the help of her mother’s journal.
Carole King, A Natural Woman, from the “Tapestry” folk-rock queen.
Madeleine Albright, Prague Winter, focusing on the former secretary of state’s early years.
Louise Krug, Louise Amended, chronicling the struggle to recover from a brain hemorrhage.
Ann Lamott, Some Assembly Required: A Journal of My Son’s First Son, on ushering her son into fatherhood when he was just 19.
Terry Leahy, Management in 10 Words, part memoir and part business advice from the former CEO of Tesco.
Jane Lynch, Happy Accidents, a humor-driven account of the actress’s road to stardom.
Anna Quindlen, Lots of Candles & Plenty of Cake, the latest navel gaze from the prolific NYTimes columnist.
Billy Bob Thornton, The Billy Bob Tapes, as told to Kinky Friedman.
Mitch Winehouse, Amy, My Daughter, about the late British rocker.

We love this—“When you finish a memoir there’s a sense of satisfaction no novel can give: you’ve been let in on a truth about another person.” That observation comes from Forbes blogger Meghan Casserly, who has declared this to be the Summer of the Memoir. Combining Meghan’s Top 10 memoirs for women released this year with 10 of our own WriteMyMemoir picks, here are 20 new(ish) memoirs worth a turn of the page during the remaining summer days:

  • Mimi Alford, Once Upon A Secret: My Affair With President John F Kennedy and its Aftermath, recalling a youthful, not altogether voluntary, affair.
  • Harry Belafonte, My Song: A Memoir of Art, Race and Defiance, for more than just “Banana Boat” fans.
  • Gail Caldwell, Let’s Take the Long Way Home: A Memoir of Friendship, a year or two old but an uplifting tale of devotion.
  • Monique Colver, An Uncommon Friendship, tracing the effects her husband’s mental illness had on their marriage.
  • Andre Dubus III, Townie, offering insight into the two polar societies in which the author grew up.
  • William Foege, House on Fire: The Fight to Eradicate Smallpox, explaining the author’s role in wiping out the dreaded disease.
  • Gabrielle Hamilton, Blood, Bones & Butter, a sort of food memoir from the owner of Prune, a restaurant in NYC.
  • Diane Keaton, Then Again, self-analysis with the help of her mother’s journal.
  • Carole King, A Natural Woman, from the “Tapestry” folk-rock queen.
  • Madeleine Albright, Prague Winter, focusing on the former secretary of state’s early years.
  • Louise Krug, Louise Amended, chronicling the struggle to recover from a brain hemorrhage.
  • Ann Lamott, Some Assembly Required: A Journal of My Son’s First Son, on ushering her son into fatherhood when he was just 19.
  • Jane Lynch, Happy Accidents, a humor-driven account of the actress’s road to stardom.
  • Garry Marshall, My Happy Days in Hollywood, the TV and film director’s account of his long career.
  • Caitlin Moran, How To Be A Woman, the British media personality’s look at her life through a modern-day feminist lens.
  • Sal Polisi and Steve Dougherty, The Sinatra Club: My Life Inside the New York Mafia, released just today, told by the mobster-turned-state’s-witness against John Gotti.
  • Anna Quindlen, Lots of Candles & Plenty of Cake, the latest navel gaze from the prolific NYTimes columnist.
  • Billy Bob Thornton, The Billy Bob Tapes, as told to Kinky Friedman.
  • Paul Wortman, Think Jung! How I Found Meaning in My Life, a self-published memoir by a guy whose letters frequently appear in the NYTimes.
  • Mitch Winehouse, Amy, My Daughter, about the late British rocker.

Yet More Tips on Getting Started on Your Writing

Yet More Tips on Getting Started on Your Writing
When you sit down to start writing your memoir, that blank page sure does stare back harshly. Getting out that first paragraph—even that first sentence—trips up people to the point that some never return to the task. Don’t let that happen to you!
As a guest blogger on The Creative Penn, Eric Olsen, co-author of We Wanted To Be Writers, contributed his thoughts on how to get started writing a novel. He tells writers not to worry about writing your book from Page 1 right through to the end. You can start anywhere. In a way, your memoir is a type of nonfiction novel, and here at WriteMyMemoirs we frequently mention the same thing—just write something, even one anecdote, and then at least you’ve gotten started.
Olsen lists three ways of organizing your thoughts, and we’ll tweak them here to apply to a memoir:
1. Write scenes. Think of your life as a series of scenes, and start with the most important or, perhaps, the most vivid scenes from your life.
2. Write characters. Devote a chapter to your parents, siblings, spouse(s) and special friends. Explore what makes the person tick and how each one impacted your life.
3. Write dialogue. Like a novel, a memoir could be more interesting with some dialogue rather than all straight description. Instead of describing what happened in an interpersonal situation, let your “characters” speak for themselves. Try it!
You can always go back and piece together your work in whatever order you want—chronological or otherwise. Start writing!

When you sit down to start writing your memoir, that blank page sure does stare back harshly. Getting out that first paragraph—even that first sentence—trips up people to the point that some never return to the task. Don’t let that happen to you!

As a guest blogger on The Creative Penn, Eric Olsen, co-author of We Wanted To Be Writers, contributed his thoughts on how to get started writing a novel. He tells writers not to worry about writing your book from Page 1 right through to the end. You can start anywhere. In a way, your memoir is a type of nonfiction novel, and here at WriteMyMemoirs we frequently mention the same thing—just write something, even one anecdote, and then at least you’ve gotten started.

Olsen lists three ways of organizing your thoughts, and we’ll tweak them here to apply to a memoir:

  1. Write scenes. Think of your life as a series of scenes, and start with the most important or, perhaps, the most vivid scenes from your life.
  2. Write characters. Devote a chapter to your parents, siblings, spouse(s) and special friends. Explore what makes the person tick and how each one impacted your life.
  3. Write dialogue. Like a novel, a memoir could be more interesting with some dialogue rather than all straight description. Instead of describing what happened in an interpersonal situation, let your “characters” speak for themselves. Try it!

You can always go back and piece together your work in whatever order you want—chronological or otherwise. Start writing!

Get Your Customized Memoir Publishing Here!

Get Your Customized Memoir Publishing Here!
Memoirs are like snowflakes! The longer we’re in the memoirs business, the more we see that no two memoirs are exactly alike. Every author approaches an autobiography a little differently. Variations include the organization, number of photographs and length of chapters. Still, when we publish memoirs, we see many similarities as well, such as:
1. The writing is generally very good. People who want to see their work in an actual book tend to have someone who’s skilled at language read it over first for grammatical errors. This is a great idea!
2. Early life, marriage/family, work, military service and retirement tend to be typical chapters, which is why we suggest those categories in our online structure.
3. Most people include at least a few photographs. Visuals help the author to remember details, and they help the reader to picture the people and action described.
4. The memoirs convey a sense of satisfaction. Our memoir writers tend to be pleased with their lives. In many ways their lives are ordinary, but the authors feel happy to have lived them.
Then there’s the more detailed work involved in publishing, such as the font, the placement of photographs and the cover layout. Sometimes the author has a clear vision, while other times we help our authors with those types of decisions. At WriteMyMemoirs, we enjoy working with authors to get their life stories into print. Although our standard soft-cover book suits most tastes, we can create any book you want.

Memoirs are like snowflakes! The longer we’re in the memoirs business, the more we see that no two memoirs are exactly alike. Every author approaches an autobiography a little differently. Variations include the organization, number of photographs and length of chapters. Still, when we publish memoirs, we see many similarities as well, such as:

  1. The writing is generally very good. People who want to see their work in an actual book tend to have someone who’s skilled at language read it over first for grammatical errors. This is a great idea!
  2. Early life, marriage/family, work, military service and retirement tend to be typical chapters, which is why we suggest those categories in our online structure.
  3. Most people include at least a few photographs. Visuals help the author to remember details, and they help the reader to picture the people and action described.
  4. The memoirs convey a sense of satisfaction. Our memoir writers tend to be pleased with their lives. In many ways their lives are ordinary, but the authors feel happy to have lived them.

Then there’s the more detailed work involved in publishing, such as the font, the placement of photographs and the cover layout. Sometimes the author has a clear vision, while other times we help our authors with those types of decisions. At WriteMyMemoirs, we enjoy working with authors to get their life stories into print. Although our standard soft-cover book suits most tastes, we can create any book you want.