Every ordinary life story is extraordinary!

Every ordinary life story is extraordinary!

Think About the Future, Not Just the Past, When Writing Your Memoir

Old woman reading a book

Memoir writing is so tricky because you think you’re writing about events in your past, but you really have to consider three versions of yourself: past you, present you and future you. If you’re having trouble getting started on your memoir or sticking with a writing schedule, the consideration for future you may be a factor.

Past and Present

It’s difficult to get back into the brain of your earlier self and remember your life’s important facts, much less the colorful details that give them meaning and context. As you write, you try to feel the emotions you were feeling at the time of the incident you’re relating. As you relive an episode in order to write about it, you open up all of your senses and strain to see, hear, taste and smell everything that went on. That’s the way to share your story accurately, candidly and in a way that’s true to yourself.

You also have to contend with who you are at the time you’re writing your memoir. Perhaps some memories are so painful that you have to prepare yourself before you sit down and write about them. Now that you’re older, you have a different perspective. While you may be writing about your childhood, as an adult you know a lot more about what was happening to you. So by necessity, your current self is all over this book. The story is in the past, but the writing is in the present.

You’re the Most Important Reader

Then there’s the you of the future. You may not think much about this person, because you’re focused on the past. But don’t lose sight that “future you” is who will show up next.

We talk a lot about writing for your target audience. You want to make sure you’re describing details for your reader. You have to figure out what you can assume the reader knows and which information you need to fill in for the reader. In short, when you’re writing your memoir you’re trying to think like your ideal reader.

But you know who is probably the most important person you should want to please? You! Not the you who’s writing the memoir, because you’ll make sure you like your work before you publish it or share it in any way. But what about the way you’ll feel some years from now? Don’t forget about that person. That’s an important reader—maybe the most important reader.

Try to Have No Regrets

You can’t possibly know exactly how you’ll feel a decade from now when you pick up your own book. But you can consider this eventuality. Will you have to forgive yourself for anything that’s in your memoir? If reading an anecdote you wrote embarrasses you a little right now or makes you cringe, will that improve or be even worse years from now? Maybe now that you’ve gotten some of these stories out and on paper, they don’t have to make the final cut in the published version.

A lot of your memoir is likely to involve stories about other people. In the future, will you wish you hadn’t named someone who harmed you—or will you wish you had named everyone and not used pseudonyms? Do you think you might be kind of over your anger or hurt by then? Or are you stepping too gingerly—avoiding hurting other people when protecting their feelings will come at the sacrifice of your own?

“Future You” Can Help with Hard Decisions

As you zoom ahead and picture yourself in the years to come, rereading your own work, it may help you now to decide which way to go in terms of including certain content and the tone you use in the writing. Ultimately, you want to be glad you told your story and wrote your memoir in the fashion that you did. Think about how you’ll feel looking back not at your life, but at what you chose to tell about your life and the way you chose to tell it.

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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!