Memoir Writing: Back to the Basics

I’m happy to share here a truly excellent guest blog recently posted on writing guru, Jane Friedman’s, web page that revisits the basics of Memoir Writing. Not being formally educated in story telling and creative writing myself and not having even attempted story telling and creative writing until 2008, it took me the better part of seven years to self-learn and get up to speed on what it meant to write a story and to write creatively.

Jane Friedman’s guest blogger, Cyndy Etler, shares “How to Write Your Memoir with Fun, Easy Lists”

The title of the post is a bit deceiving, because this post does way more than its lighthearted title suggests. It is a basic primer of all that is necessary to pull off writing a coherent memoir. It is everything that it took me the better part of seven years to understand and retain (by reading countless how-to-write-memoir blogs, and how-to-write-memoir books, and reading good memoirs written by good writers and so-so memoirs written by good writers and trying to figure out what made one good and one so-so, etc.). But take note: Etler’s post is way more than the fabulous primer it promises to be. It’s the one post you might do well to re-read after having written your first draft . . . and second draft . . . and third draft. This post might be the very thing to save you when you’ve somehow drifted off from your original plan, when perhaps you started off winging it (you pantster, you!) and now need structure, or you carefully planned it out (you plotter, you!) but lost your notes or your focus along the way.

Memoirs are far more difficult than I imagined (I know this after tackling several drafts of my own and helping a good friend with his own), especially if story telling and creative writing is new to you. I know there are tons of people out there who are like me, who have experienced something so profound, they feel compelled to write (possibly for the first time in their lives). To them, I say, “Go for it! Write that memoir!” It’s not easy. It takes lots of self-study if you were never schooled in story telling and creative writing, but I think it’s worth it to learn what you can from the massive amount of resources out there (search ‘memoir blogs’ in any search engine and be prepared to be overwhelmed). It’s enough to get you going, and the rest of it will depend on what you already subconsciously know about telling stories and doing it well–whether via your instincts or via your lifetime exposure to good books, movies and ballads, and even your memories of those storytelling friends and relatives in your own life whose stories made an impression on you. All of this counts as your self-education in the rewarding (though sometimes frustrating!) realm of writing stories and, specifically, writing memoir for the first time.