12 Tips for Writing Your Memoirs

12 Tips for Writing Your Memoirs

Your life is precious and shouldn’t be forgotten. In today’s uprooted society, the link your memoir provides can help maintain family ties, traditions, and values. Here are some tips to get started:

1. Begin wherever you wish. Start with your birth and proceed chronologically, arrange information by the high pints of your life, or plunge right into a dramatic episode. Think of your memoir as a puzzle: You can start with any piece, and then connect it to another and another. Ultimately, you will find your way to a grander plan.

2. Highlight the important people in your life: parents, spouse, family, friends, special teachers, and colleagues.

3. Write simple sentences that readers at any age can understand. Don’t be afraid to write in the first person.

4. Use humor, family sayings, poetry, quotes from letters, a family tree, and snippets of dialogue you remember, and even good recipes.

5. Include photographs, tapes, journal sections, news clippings, maps, diaries, drawings, anecdotes, statistics, songs, special awards, audio tapes, and video tapes.

6. Describe how you and your family solved problems when you were growing up. Kids are going through these same issues today. Your family may learn from an older generation’s solutions.

7. Should you include the troubled times? You decide, based on what you want others to know and remember.

8. Your hobbies reveal much about you. How did you get interested in them, and what impact have they had on your life?

9. Do careful research to discover the facts about your family history. Interview family members, especially older ones. The following documents can help with accuracy: birth, marriage, and death certificates; diplomas; college and high school yearbooks; scrapbooks and photo albums; bills, deeds, wills, newspapers, military records, and passports. Do an Internet search using selected family members names: Put both first and last name within quotation marks, click and see what comes up.

10. Record your memories as they surface. Index cards are handy because you can arrange them by topic or chapter when you sit down to write.

11. Plan the memoir according to sections or chapters, and lead with a table of contents.

12. Prepare a rough draft. If you speak more freely than you write, talk into a tape recorder first.

Read through your draft to see what needs to be pared down. Read sections out loud to yourself or another person to see if the story flows. Cap your memoir with a quote that has meaning for you.


© 2014 The Cheerful Word (as adapted from Nancy Schuster)