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How to write a great memoir or personal biography without getting lost in the process

First the bad news: writing memoirs is hard, there’s not a big audience for it, there’s less plot structure or anything to guide you. It’s basically a collection of short or funny stories; hopefully in a good metaphor it will build up to a powerful transformative event. All the little things matter in context of the big thing. Make sure your story is building with increasing conflict or suspense: you can learn a lot about just not dumping all the info together or starting with the most dramatic things. Memoirs should unfold like petals of a flower – then you get stung by the bee hidden inside, just out of sight.

Ideally a memoir will be about one specific type of life event, culture, challenge or experience – something that other people can get or relate to. It may also be full of interesting travel narrative, information or detail to show them about a very interesting kind of life they haven’t previously considered, but few readers will do that just for fun, if it doesn’t have a story.

So keep all that in mind: then consider your audience. Why are they reading this, what value are they getting from it, who are they – make sure to hook attention and intrigue by withholding information and increasing dramatic conflict (I have a book about writing that can help with this).

But then, most authors get stuck figuring out the pacing and organization. What do you actually do, how do you put it together, where does everything go? Here are two articles with a details step-by-step template for organizing your memoir that are sure to help!




Written by: Derek Murphy

Derek is a book cover designer finishing a PhD in Literature. These days he spends his time building tools and resources to help indie authors publish better on his blog, www.creativindie.com. Read More

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