My 2 Cents on How to Write Your Own Memoir

I’ve only written one. But here’s what I learned.

1. Learn how to write. Invest the time, money, and energy to do so. Take online classes. Listen to podcasts. Experiment with many genres, like poetry, 100-word stories, short stories, fiction… Go for it! Have fun.

2. Pick discreet periods in your life to write about. Don’t take on your whole life. And write scenes about that period. What happened? Who said what? Don’t worry if you don’t remember exact words;  just write it out the best you can. This will give you the blocks with which to build your story.

3. Share your writing with others. Maybe just a friend or spouse at first—you’ve got to protect your fragile writer-self at the beginning. Then branch out and share with others. Find a critique partner. Find friends who will read your work. Then, when you start to produce pieces that are good, hire someone to edit your work.

4. Study “story.” What makes a good story? Beginning, middle, and end. What makes good scenes? How do I keep people’s interest? What is the arc of my story and the narrative of what I learned  about life?

5. Read books in the genre you want to write in. Learn the principles that make that type of writing good. But don’t get discouraged. You’ll listen to someone write about their life so eloquently that you’ll want to give up trying. Don’t. You have your own story and your own unique way of telling it.

6. Journal or talk to your bestie about what you’ve learned from your experience. Talk about it until you’re sick of talking about it. Journal about it until you’re sick of journaling about it. Then write about it. See if there is an event in your life that personifies what you’ve learned and write that scene.

7. Share your heart. Lay it out there for the world to see. Bleed on the page. Not gratuitously. Not being overly dramatic. Just share how you are, true in your soul. We want to get a glimpse into the actual you, your heart, your soul, what makes you, you. And when we do, when we see behind the curtain, we purr with humanness, our soul rejoices when we see the sinews and bones of another person. Memoir has the power to move someone from aloneness to community, from quivering to bold. Move ours, you little Hemingway.

8. Write, write, and then write some more. We live in the best and worst times for writers. The best, because anyone can publish a book. The bar is low. The worst, because anyone can publish a book and a lot of people do. Many of them are not good books. But hey, if you’ve got a good story to tell, and if you learn how to tell it interestingly, then you can share it with the world. You go!

 

Ken Guidroz

Ken Guidroz

Author

I never fancied myself a writer. I only put fingers to keyboard for a personal journal and a business book I wrote back in 2010.

But Lucas going to prison changed all that. Seeing how writing letters to each other changed us both made me a huge fan of the process.

As I’ve shared my story, an amazing thing happened: everyone started telling me about their own “son in prison.” For them, it might have been the devastating loss of a child, a bitter divorce, an embarrassing bankruptcy, or a miscarriage they were having a hard time getting over. Whatever it was, it thrilled them to hear me talk about recovering from loss.