Three Things to Find Before You Write Your Memoir



Find Your (Original) Story

If you’re thinking of writing a memoir, you probably already know you have an interesting story to tell. The next step is figuring out what’s different about your story, and how you’re going to pitch that difference to readers. If they’ve already read six chronicles of life-changing backpacking trips across Asia, what’s the hook that’s going to make them want to pick up yours?

Find Your Focus

When writing about your own life, it’s tempting to start at your birth and keep chugging along until the present-day. However, readers will be more interested if you stick to the most fascinating parts of your life. If your memoir is about your experience touring with a band in the 80’s, you’ll want to set the bulk of your book in that decade, since that’s where the action is. A reference to the fact you were given your first guitar at the age of six might be fitting, but you may not need to dedicate an entire chapter to how you learned to play.

Find Your Audience

Memoirs written by celebrities have a built-in audience, but who is going to be yours? Before you write, you need to decide. How much does your audience already know about baking, or the military, or what it’s like to dredge up ancient treasures from the bottom of the Pacific, and how much do you need to tell them about it? What tone are you going to use—confiding, witty, academic? Are readers going to find your stories as funny or wild as you do, or are some of these events of the “you had to be there to understand” type?

*Based on my experience evaluating manuscripts as a literary agency intern


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