Maybe you’ve thought of writing your memoirs before. If so, what has kept you from starting? Or maybe you started already but have put your project on hold. Either way, give some thought to these questions so we can plan for your success, then we’ll take some steps to help you achieve your goals:
Why are you writing this?
- To honor those in your past?
- To get something “off your chest?”
- To keep as a family record?
- To publish an eBook? a paperback?
- Anything else . . .
Your answer to this becomes your goal, and it may be the most important step to your success. Your reasons for doing this work may change, even several times, during the “content” phase—that is, the part where you begin by writing the outlines and the text that will eventually become your finished manuscript.
This goal may change somewhat but that is normal because, as you progress, you will recollect some things long forgotten and you may even discover other events for the first time, as you research.
Don’t new goals mean starting all over?
Not at all. Changing your goals is an encouraging sign that the writing process is getting easier for you. As you proceed, much of your content will almost write itself, the same way words and ideas just seem to “appear” to you in your conversations.
3 Good Tips to Get You Started: Outline, Research, Organize . . .
- Tip 1: Begin Collecting “Content” Topics
- Decide on the most comfortable way/place to record your thoughts, as they occur to you. At first, plan on momentary (“jot-down”) sessions just to get an outline started: on 3X5 cards, on a notepad or, if you prefer, a laptop/smartphone. It will help, later, if each short topic is on a separate piece of paper (or card). You will see why when we talk about the organizing step.
- Keep it simple. Don’t organize anything yet. Rather, record each thought as it pops into your mind; write it down, then put it aside.
- As you record each note or event, it will help if you can identify it with the approximate date when it occurred or happened (just the year will be fine).
- Tip 2: Check your family files for details
- While you continue collecting topics for your outline, begin looking through any family files and albums for personal records, old letters, photos and anything that will fill in forgotten details.
- If this research suggests topics you may have overlooked so far, record each one as a new content topic, including its date.
- Continue this research throughout the rest of your project, as it will come in handy when the editing phase begins later.
- Tip 3: Organize at your leisure
- Once you are getting comfortable with how your outline and research is developing, you can start thinking about how all this will come together. You’re free to organize some of what you’ve collected, but ONLY if it doesn’t interfere with what you’ve been doing so far. Do not stress yourself.
- Start sorting each of your topics according to the date you’ve recorded on it.
Sort by year, first, then within any year, by the month, etc.
- Your memoir need not be chronological, but this arrangement will help with your perspective, as you begin the next phase—the “writing-your-content” part.
The Last Thing You Need to Know about Getting Started
- Many of the content topics you collected for your outline will become a complete chapter in your memoir; some combine with other topics to complete a chapter.
- Your research will have produced more detail, some documentation, and maybe a few photos to dress up the cover, and the finished pages.
- Your organizing has just begun, but it has put you in a good position to enjoy the most fun part of writing your memoir—WRITING YOUR MEMOIR!
- You’re in a splendid position to start your “Content” phase, but first, a few important reminders:
- As you put this all together, it may be a good time to look at your goals again. One thing we didn’t include in those goals may be the most important one of all—this is an exciting thing you are starting; no matter how you approach it, be sure to make it FUN. There’s no need to feel pressure; you’re under no time constraints. If you start to feel it is a chore, take a break, and don’t come back until you genuinely want to.
- Throughout the entire process, keep envisioning the finished product. You’re not just authoring a book; you’re finally telling the world the story of YOU!
- Everyone else on this blog is feeling the same as you are. Leave your comments and concerns on the articles and the posts and interact with the rest of us.
- What else can we do to get you started? Your suggestions are welcome; it’s the way we’ll get to know you, as you get ready to tell us your story. Ready, Set, WRITE!
(Still need a little help? Complete the form at the right to get your free copy of “7 Secrets for a Quick and Easy Way to Start Your Memoir”)