Saturday, March 17, 2012


Most memoirs, unlike most autobiographies, cover a segment of the author’s life. This means scripting a memoir begins with making choices. What point in time does a writer want to consider?

Here’s an exercise to help you select a topic that seems worth writing about.

Examine your life by making lists that will help trigger memories. Such a list might include: Turning points, emotional extremes when feelings reached highs and/or lows,regrets, good and b ad decisions, philosophy. goals achieved or not reached, and vivid childhood memories. Photographs are a great source to jog memory. Sort through them and find images, people and places that had an impact on your life.

We are the culmination of every experience and everyone we've met. What specific events, individuals, and decisions led you to become the person you are today? Chances are there are universal terms to describe these experiences, words or phrases that can be used to inspire memories.

Once you’ve completed your list, choose one item and script a timeline. If you’ve chosen an individual, then you might outline the relationship from beginning to end––how you met, what life was like before the encounter, how this person helped you change, and what valuable lessons you have learned.

Writing memoir can be much like writing fiction. If it’s a turning point or an emotional extreme, consider things like setting, characters involved, actions, feelings, and cause and effect.

The timeline can begin at any point. The more you contemplate the experience, the more you will recall and fill in the gaps, whether these details precede the event that began the timeline or follow it.

With the timeline complete, you have a frame upon which to hang your story with a beginning, middle, and end.

You can now examine each step on the timeline beneath your writer’s microscope. This might mean creating an additional list for each item on the original timeline; or you might write in depth and detail about each individual, moment, feeling, decision, and place. These memory builders written on note cards can then be configured into some kind structure and strung together to create a memoir chapter or story.

Using such small steps will lead you from list-making to story telling make a writer out of you before you’ve had a chance to realize what you’ve done.

 1. Get note cards or paper or use a journal. Then get a pen or pencil. Writing lists by hand is better than writing lists at the computer.

2. Decide what kind list you will write.

3. Write quickly without thinking about it. Force yourself to write faster by setting a timer.

4. Take your list with you. If you have to wait in the doctor’s office, you can add to your list. If you’re in a coffee shop, you can add to your list and look like a writer.

5. Once your list is completed, choose one item. 6. Start writing a timeline to fit the item you’ve chosen. If you get stuck or blocked, go back to your list and choose a different item.

7. Once your timeline is completed, you’ll have your story outline.

8. Take a look at the outline. You now can make new lists to fit each step of the outline. Take those lists with you wherever you go and pull them out during an afternoon lull or in the middle of the night if you can’t sleep.

9. Refine your lists and analyze them.

10. Write a beginning sentence.

Congratulations. You've begun your memoir!

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