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Writing Your Memoir – A Family Legacy



Have you ever thought about writing your memoir? Have you ever wondered what your life story would look like if it were a book? You may have even started writing it down on paper, but never finished. Or maybe you've been wanting to start a memoir but don't know how to get started. Well, here are some tips I've learned from writing my own memoir, Suicide Kills , and as a writing coach:


Make a list of 20-50 important events in your life.


In this section, you'll be asked to make a list of 20-50 important events in your life. Don't worry if some of them are from before you were born—this is college-level memoir writing, and we know that sometimes terrible things happen before birth (like being born). Also remember to include important people in your life, even if they're not technically part of an event. For example, my husband Steve wasn't part of my memoir but I included him in my book as a note of appreciation for his unwavering support as I was writing this difficult story of my life. It was my way of including him. Make sure you include the people that matter in your life in this great journey ahead.


After making the list, it's time to start organizing these events into chapters or sections within each chapter based on what feels right for you—some people like chronological order while others prefer topical organization by theme or topic (e.g., "My Parents' Divorce"). Whichever method works best for you is fine!


Choose a time period to write about.


Now that you've chosen a topic, it's time to narrow it down even further. You may have several ideas for memoirs, but you need to pick the one that is most interesting for you and for your readers.

  • Choose a time period that is important to you. If this is your first memoir, choose one of the most significant times in your life; if it's not your first memoir, choose another time period which will be new territory for both yourself and those who read your work. This can include anything from childhood memories to post-college adventures or a recent experience like traveling abroad or having children of your own.

  • Choose a time period that is interesting unto itself but also provides some sort of meaning or lesson within the context of larger cycles of history (such as World War II).

  • Choose a time period that will challenge yourself creatively as well as help readers understand more about themselves through their reading experience of yours.


Use your word processor's outlining feature to create a hierarchy of topics and subtopics.


It's easy to get lost in the details when you're writing your memoir, but it's important that you keep focus on what's most important: telling the story. One way to avoid getting derailed is to use your word processor's outlining feature since it allows you to see how all of these parts fit together. You'll be able to see if there are any gaps or redundancies throughout your work and make changes accordingly.


Remember your 5 Ws and 1 H: Who, What, Where, When, Why, How.


You’ll want to make sure that you have answers for the following questions:

Who is the main character?

What does he or she do in each chapter?

Where does this take place? At home, at work, etc.

When did this happen? How long did it last? When did it start and stop? Is it ongoing or did it end once and for all? Why did they act like they did—what motivated them to react as they did toward others around them (even if those people weren't central players)? And finally: How was life different before then than after that momentous event occurred—or not changed at all?


The best memoirs have strong internal conflict.


The best memoirs have strong internal conflict. The conflict should be a struggle between what you want and what is expected of you. It should be the main focus of the story, and it should be something that happened to you, not something you read about in a book.

It's also important that the conflict is relatable—the reader needs to understand why your character feels this way, even if they don't agree with those feelings or actions.


For my memoir, I used my unusual perspective and experience of suicide and explained the three main ways it deeply affected my life. I had never known anyone else in my life who had been exposed to suicide from so many fronts so I used this experience to draw the audience in and capture not only their attention but their hearts as well. It turned out to be a successful approach since it was well received and every review left on Amazon has been a 5 star positive review. (if you have any interest in reading it and seeing for yourself how I brought it all together, you can get it on Amazon by clicking here.)


Explain how those events shaped you.


The next step is to explain how those events shaped your life. The way you react to an event is often the most important part of writing a memoir, because it shows how the past has affected your present.


You can take several different approaches here:

  • How did you react?

  • What did you learn from it?

  • How did it affect future decisions in your life?


Use the present tense when describing your stories.


The present tense is used when you're telling a story that's happening right now. For example: "I'm sitting in this chair and typing this sentence." The past tense is used when you're describing an event or experience that happened before now. For example: "Yesterday, I ate an egg salad sandwich for lunch." The future tense is used when you're talking about something that will happen later on down the road, but not necessarily today or even tomorrow—it could be years from now! For example: "In 2027, my memoir will be published."


The present perfect tense shows action that started in the past and continues into the present moment; it gives us information about an ongoing condition (or state) as opposed to being focused on a particular point in time (i.e., “I have eaten” versus “I ate”).


Don't be afraid to include negative details about yourself or others in your story.


Don't be afraid to include negative details about yourself or others in your story. I know it's hard to share, but there are some things that you need to mention. You don't have to go into heavy detail, but don't leave them out completely either. The whole point of writing a memoir is because you want people to understand who you are and where you've come from—including the difficult parts of your life will help them understand exactly what went on during those moments.


You also may not need all of these details in every chapter; just add them as needed throughout the book so they fit into context with the rest of your story!


I was quite hesitant about sharing so much of myself when I started the journey of writing my memoir. I felt really vulnerable and naked of protection. I had decided to not hide behind anything or anyone and it ended up feeling like I was exposing too much of myself, my family and my life. But what happened when I released it was pure magic. It was such a cathartic experience. I felt light and free for the first time in what seemed like forever. Yes, some people where unhappy with my sharing of my life but in the end, it was the best thing I could have ever done. It turned some of my superficial relationships into deep meaning ones and it got rid of some of the fluff connections I no longer needed in my life. So, if you're on the fence about writing your memoir because you're afraid to hurt someone's feelings, just remember whose life this is. Remember that this is YOUR story and you have every right to tell it to the world. You never know who you'll be helping in the end.


Use chronology as a basis for structure.


Chronology is the order in which events occurred. It’s often useful for organizing your story, especially when you don’t know where to start or what events are most important. As it happens, chronology can also help you see patterns in your life that might otherwise have been hidden—for example, if you always seem to be single right before major holidays and birthdays. Or maybe there were certain places or types of people that you always connected with but never dated?


If you want to write about an event from multiple points of view, chronological order can help show how those perspectives evolve over time. For instance: “I left my job at a nonprofit organization because I was tired of working long hours for low pay without seeing any tangible results." This sentence implies that the speaker has changed his mind about these things since leaving his job—but the reader doesn't really get an indication as to why this change has taken place until much later in the paragraph!


Always write what is true to you; don't worry about other people's opinions and expectations.


  • Don't be afraid to include negative details about yourself or others in your story. Be honest with yourself and be willing to take a hard look at your past self, even if it makes you feel uncomfortable.

  • Use chronology as a basis for structure. If you're missing pieces of the puzzle because there are chunks of time that are still lost in your memory, use those gaps as chapter headings so that readers can have a sense of where they might fit into the overall narrative arc of your life story.



Include sensory details and figurative language to bring your story to life for the reader.


A memoir is the story of your life. It's a journey with ups and downs, laughter and tears. When writing about yourself and your experiences, you want to make sure that readers feel like they are there with you in each moment as it happens. To do this effectively, use sensory details such as sounds, sights, smells and tastes throughout your memoir. For example:

  • "The air was thick with humidity outside."

  • "The sound of running water in the bathroom sink echoed through the house."

  • "The smell of melted chocolate filled my nostrils as I opened up my favorite candy bar."

In addition to using sensory details in your writing, it is also important to include figurative language (similes or metaphors) so that readers can better understand what is happening in your story without having to spend time trying to figure out what exactly it means by saying something like 'sitting on a trampoline' instead of just saying 'I sat down'. F


Writing your memoir can help you understand your life better, and leave a legacy behind.


Memoirs can help you understand your life better. They are very personal and allow you to look back on your past and reflect on what has happened in your life. While it may be painful, it is also a great way to learn from the mistakes that you have made and how they've shaped who you are today.


Memoirs can help you leave a legacy behind. Writing a memoir will give future generations an insight into how things were at the time that they were written, often making them more relatable than history books or documentaries could ever do alone. This can be especially helpful for young people struggling with their identity as they try to find their place in society today.


Memoirs can be used as an outlet for emotions such as grief, anger or stress-relief when faced with difficult situations such as abuse or loss; many people have found comfort within their own writing by sharing these experiences with others through memoirs such as [The Empathy Project]. Memoirs also offer support for those who need advice about specific issues like health problems like diabetes but don't know where else ask around town where everybody knows each other's business anyway!"


And even though you may begin the journey of writing your memoir with the only wish to share it with your family, the road may lead you elsewhere and you may end up in your favorite book store next to your all time favorite authors!


Writing your memoir is a great way to record the important events in your life and make them more meaningful. Whether you're writing for yourself or others, the process of sharing your stories is an essential part of understanding who you are as a person and finding meaning in your experiences.


If you have a book within you dying to get out and you just don't know where to get started, click here.


If you don't want to wait and you're excited about starting the journey, simply click here and schedule a strategy call and let's get you started!


Some of the links in this article may be affiliate links, which can provide compensation to me at no cost to you if you decide to purchase a paid plan. These are products I’ve personally used and stand behind. You can read my affiliate disclosure in my privacy policy.


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