Memoirs seem more challenging to me than fiction. In fiction, a writer can design an alluring opening, a smash ending, and then set to the task of writing all the interesting stuff in between. But in memoirs, as in life, aside from being born and dying, beginnings and endings aren’t as clear.

In memoirs, we often don’t know where our particular sub-story began. That’s what we pay a psychologist many decades of analysis for, if we’re so lucky to be able to afford one. Often, we don’t know where the end is either. Because when we’re living life, the ‘end’ never really happens. In the process of living, we blur the lines between the end of one story in our life and the beginning of the next.

It’s the very reason, I now have TWO memoirs in progress. Not because I love torturing myself with two major projects at once, but because they’re closely related, sharing the same backstory, so it’s difficult to decipher where one ends and the other begins. I constantly flip-flop between the two projects, jotting down notes, moving a piece from one into the other and back again.

This morning, I stared at my first memoir, hoping to tackle the third draft, trying to nail down a beginning and an end. At best, I still only have a vague idea of the beginning, but I did settle in on an ending that just might work. I’ve used this approach many times before . . . even if I don’t know exactly what scene will be the last in the story, I at least have an idea of the “take-away”–the “lessons learned” that I hope the reader will ponder as they close the book cover. This, I know, is the most important part of the book, the part that drives the entire story. Today, the ending was an excellent place to start.


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