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Saturday, 23 June 2007

Tips for Writing your Memoirs


  • Memoirs are written specifically for others to read: Memoirs usually cover a certain period of the author’s life. Memoirs are way of passing family stories, secrets down through the generations to come. A way to keep these treasured memories alive for forever
  • Title: You can give your memoires a title at any time during the process from the start or after you have finished.
  • Outline: If your memoir will cover several years, simplify the planning by breaking it down into one year chunks. Set the scene by noting the challenges and successes, transitions, and important people in your life, as well as the significant world events, during each time period.
  • Envision each event: Before you start writing a scene or event, picture it in your mind. “Watch” it a few times, and feel it – include the emotional and sensory factors to make the scene come to life.
  • Background Information: Include brief mention of pertinent background information, i.e., early life family events and difficulties – economic, emotional and physical, jarring changes, births and deaths, and other life-shaping situations.
  • Dialogue: Include dialogue, being true to the special voice of each person. If a policeman, nursery school teacher, and account each experienced “a close one,” they would describe “it” very differently. Be true to the person about whom you are writing, but avoid using stereotypes. Maybe that accountant spends dozens of hours a month as a Big Sister or visiting the severely disabled.
  • Hook: Start each scene or chapter with a hook – a hint at the primary battle, challenge, or unexpected outcome. But don’t leave your reader hanging. Include the basic who, what, where, when, and possibly how at the chapter beginning, shortly after your hook.
  • Endings: Don’t let your scene dribble away. Provide your reader with a specific, satisfying conclusion, then stop! Your snappy conclusion looses all of its punch if you keep blathering on.
  • Conclusions and transitions: Some effective closings include a question, an “Aha!” sentence, a door finally closing or opening, or a specific lesson learned. For an highly effective ending, tie the conclusion in with the introductory sentence at the beginning of the chapter or scene.
  • Repeating: Be judicious in repeating a word or phrase over and over and over and over. That kind of writing makes for boring pages. If you’re writing about a car, don’t use that word in every paragraph. Search for effective substitutes, such as the Camry, the family wagon, your wheels, or Betsy! Look for alternatives.

    Repetition in dialogue also dilutes the richness of a passage. There’s a line between reinforcing a verbal mannerism of one of the characters and belaboring the point. Grandma may have said “y’all” a lot. But the reader doesn’t want to read it in every sentence. Chances are she said “you children” or “you men” sometimes, too.
  • Flashbacks: Scenes sometimes move along more effectively if you use a brief flashback, rather than including a long description that interrupts the pace of the story.
Your memoirs doesn't have to be a collection of just your favorite memories. Ask other family members to participate. How you preserve these stories is up to you......I am preserving my memoirs in the from of a Family history scrapbook including photos, certificates, recipes, cards & letters as well as many other things.

Ever since the story "Roots" and "Centennial" were on TV back in the 70's I have wanted to tell my families story. These two mini series inspired me to try and do just that tell my family's stories.

1 comment:

Coralie Cederna Johnson said...

Hi Corinne! I happened upon your blog while looking up memoirs because thats what I enjoy writing most. I've written two books, both collections of stories about growing up in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. The first book is "The Wishing Years" and the second, due out in 3 weeks, is "A Tree Grows in Trout Creek." I was really excited to read about your interests because they are so similar to mine! I have 3 shelties at home, love to scrapbook and love to write. Also I grew up in a rather vast wilderness part of the world as it sounds like you have too. I look forward to hearing from you! While you are named Corinne, my sister is Corinne and I am Coralie Cederna Johnson. Check me out at: www.wildwoodpress.org.