Butterfly Briefs

Butterfly Brief #9 Writing Memoirs
7/27/2018 12:00:00 PM by: Leona Choy

So you want to write a memoir?

Perhaps you want to write an autobiography instead? There is a marked difference. You need to know that before you start writing since your focus will not be the same.

In both cases you are the writer. You are not writing about yourself, you are disclosing who you are to the reader. You're both the author and the subject. You are at the same time the researcher, the storyteller, and the narrator. That's a big order. You have some planning to do before you begin.

Make a list of things that are worth sharing. Moments and events from your past that aren't just trivia, but pivotal times of significance. Emotional times. Milestone events and happenings or issues that changed your life. Then turn from the big game-changers to the smaller but important things that you treasure as well as the negative or adverse incidents that shaped you, that made you who you are, but perhaps no one may have known about.

What are the hallmarks of an autobiography?

It covers the entire sweep of your life

Starts at the beginning and progresses chronologically to the end

Is historical, factual, and specific in the information

No whitewashing of the negatives or failures

No putting yourself up on a pedestal

Being honest yet modest about your successes

How about a biography?

You write in the third person about someone

It still incorporate the above characteristics

A memoir differs in these ways:

It identified a theme, event, or trend in one's life

Starts anywhere and can skip around in time and place

More like a personal journal of feelings and less a diary of events

Is less formal and more emotional

Not a heavy concentration of researched facts

A comfy chair and deep, focused remembering is a good venue for writing

Can be written by someone else

All of these writings must be based in truth. However, if you catch yourself embellishing the truth and adding drama that didn't take place, or characters who weren’t real, then you might consider jumping over to fiction and writing a novel.

For all three above, they are highly marketable in the publishing world—if they are written by celebrities or people with name recognition who accomplished something significant or had some outstanding experience.

If written by an “ordinary” person about himself or herself, probably not so marketable. In such cases, one usually has to self-publish and the target readership may be limited to friends and family and people who would be interested in your life story.

Nevertheless, each of our lives and our stories is far from “ordinary.” We are uniquely significant to those in the orbit of our influence, and we shouldn't hesitate to write about our lives as we wish. Especially to leave a legacy for the people who are important to us and to the generations that follow.

To assist you step by step as you write your memoir, I wrote my book This is Your Life—Write It: Leave Legacy Footsteps. I walk with you through all the aspects of writing your memoir, to the final stage of suggesting directions you may wish to pursue to publish and market.

You will find a review of the contents of the book and ordering information

in the BOOKSTORE section of this website.

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