So, you’d like to begin writing a memoir… Maybe it’s something you’ve always wanted to do, or maybe it’s something you’ve suddenly decided to consider after the passing of a loved one or other big life change.
We’ve pretty much all heard of memoirs and are familiar with the basic concept, and many of us will go on to read several memoirs in our lifetimes. I often think of memoirs as the literary nonfiction equivalent of a short story collection, but official categorization puts them somewhere along the lines of “a subcategory of autobiography which focuses on stories from a life more so than of a life in its entirety. They can be written for a variety of purposes. Unpublished memoirs are often written so that the author can share their story with their descendants or close family and friends, but others may choose to write memoirs strictly for the purpose of coming to terms with events in their past. Catharsis and the need to achieve it can be a powerful motivator. Psychological studies have suggested since at least the early 1990s that being familiar with ones genealogy helps people both to find their place in the world and to come to terms with their past.
With the expansion of digital and self publication, the memoir genre has EXPLODED in the last several decades. Memoirs are now not only literary works of art or penned by celebrities or public figures. Now everyone has access to the technology to pass down their own personal legacy either to their immediate inner circle, or to the public at large. Of course, just because someone knows you doesn’t mean they’ll want to read your entire life story, so how can you turn ‘You’ve written memoirs, how nice’ into ‘I have to read that!’ In this series I’ll be breaking down what divides the excellent memoirs from those that never leave the bookshelf, how you can turn vague memories into stories to add to your collection, how you can decide what to exclude from your memoir, and more!
Please reach out if there are any topics you’d like to see covered in this ongoing series! (Originally posted as Memoirs: Success Explained, Secrets Revealed on February 28, 2015.)
Additional Posts in this Series: