Monday, May 5, 2014

Less Thinking, More Doing

  Have you ever wanted to write a memoir? They're quite popular now. People are curious about other people and the way they've lived. Sometimes they can relate to another person's life or just admire what the author had done over a lifetime. Whatever the reason, memoirs continue to hit the bestseller list.

Like the woman above, many of us think about writing a memoir filled with family stories that will serve to be a history for our family now and in years to come. If we can write one that a publishing house is interested in, so much the better. Let's assume that you want to write the story of your life for your family first. Even that can be completely overwhelming.

You think about it a lot. You know you have some amusing stories, some that are heartrending and others that are simply quite amazing. You think about it a lot. You look at memoir websites which serve to inspire you. You decide that you will definitely write the book. You think about it a lot.

Here's an inside tip. If you think about it a lot but never start writing, you'll never finish the project. Your family won't have the benefit of reading your history (and theirs). You won't have anything to submit to a publishing house either. Whether you're heading for the bigtime publisher or a book for family and friends, you have to begin somewhere, somehow.

How do you avoid allowing a life story project inundate you? You begin with one small segment at a time. You can write one small story more easily than a 300 page manuscript. You don't need to write in chronological order. A memoir that begins with I was born isn't going to grab anyone's attention. Some people think a memoir must start at the beginning and move through the years one by one. Not so! I like memoir books that tell a story that grabs my attention when I start reading chapter one. T. L. Needham wrote a memoir of the life of one of his uncles. His book, When I Was A Child, begins during WWII when his Uncle Louis is taken prisoner by German forces. He hooks his reader immediately, then moves back to the man's early life.

Take an incident from the past that is important to you and write that story. Then do another. And again. Keep the stories in a file. When you have lots of them, consider the order in which you could put them in a book. Write and add more stories and place them in a good spot with the others. You'll know when it's time to stop. It's then that you'll have a book manuscript. Its up to you to arrange them in whatever order appeals to you.

Read lots of memoirs written by other people. Notice the order they have selected for their stories.It doesn't mean you have to do exactly as they have, but note whether the stories jump around in time or follow in careful steps from year one to the finish. Keep a record of the ones that especially appeal to you and determine what about that book made you single it out as one you liked a lot. Doing this will help you decide what style you want to use with your own memoir.

Don't let a memoir book project make you tear at your hair. Take it a little at a time. It's not something to be done in a week. It might take months or even years, depending on how much time you have to devote to it. The inchworm doesn't move too fast but he eventually gets where he's aiming to go. You can, too.


  1. Thank you, Nancy, for the timely reminders. I have started jotting down stories for my children and grandchildren, but I do find I spend more time thinking about it than putting those stories on paper. I think I'll go write now! Nancy