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Writing a Memoir: An Overview

The Ultimate Guide to Writing a Memoir, Chapter 9

This is the final part of our 'Ultimate Guide to Writing a Memoir.'
To access the rest of the guide, click here.

You’ve covered a lot of information in this guide. Let’s recap on some of the most important bits before you get started!

1. Organising your memories: key points to remember

It’s important to gather all your information before you start writing, so you can plan your story and know what you’re going to talk about.

  • Use our memory prompts to recall forgotten information about your life.
  • Record your information in an organised format so you can easily decide what to include in your memoir. We suggest using our timeline.

Read Chapter 1 again


2. Structure your life story - key points to remember

There are many different ways to structure your story, and you don’t have to write chronologically. Here’s a quick overview of the methods we go through in Chapter 2:

The chronological approach: start at the beginning, and tell it how it happened step-by-step.

The basic three acts: split your narrative into the set up, the confrontation and the resolutions.

Freytag’s pyramid: slightly more complex than the basic three, Freytag’s pyramid consists of five stages. These are the exposition, rising action, climax, falling action and the resolution.

In media res starts in the middle of the story, right at the height of the action.

The hero’s journey: this is one of the most popular methods of storytelling. It’s quite complicated, so take a look back through Chapter 2 to find out more.

Read Chapter 2 again

3. Writing (the nitty gritty!) - key points to remember

This chapter covers two key areas: finding the time to create a habit out of writing, and developing your own unique style.

  • Set S.M.A.R.T (Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant and Timely) goals to structure your writing habit efficiently.
  • Your writing needs to sound like it’s something you would say. Get feedback to make sure your writing “sounds like you”.
  • Think about the books you like to read. If you aren’t engaged with your story, it’s unlikely anyone else will be.
  • Be honest with yourself. Who are you writing a memoir for? You need to keep your audience in mind at all times when writing. Is this something they are going to want to read?

Read Chapter 3 again


4. Overcoming writer's block - key points to remember

Writer’s block can affect anyone - it’s a popular name for that moment when you are in the midst of a project, but you lack the inspiration or drive to write another word. Here are some ways to overcome writer’s block:

Take a break: Read a book or draw a picture. Go for a run. Do anything that will take your mind off writing, and then go back to it feeling fresh.

Change your environment: if you’re used to writing at your uncomfortable, dimly lit desk at home, why not try seeking inspiration elsewhere? Go to a local coffee shop or library.

Free write: set a timer or a word limit and write anything. Forget about grammar or plot or structure. Just write.

Read Chapter 4 again  


5. Editing and proofreading your book - key points to remember

Editing involves making sure your ideas are expressed logically, in a clear and coherent narrative.

  • Read through your written memoir from start to finish before you make any major editing decisions. When you’ve done that, some questions you might want to ask yourself as you edit, are:
    • Does the text make sense?
    • Is every sentence relevant to the purpose of the text?
    • Does each paragraph contain one idea?
  • It is important to ask a trusted friend, family member or even a professional editor to provide feedback. They could point out a fundamental error that you might have missed, or amend part of a story you remembered incorrectly.

Proofreading comes after the editing process, and is more about language. It involves checking over spelling, punctuation and grammatical errors, as well as format.

  • Make a list of common mistakes to look out for within your text. If you often misspell specific words, jot them down and keep an eye out whilst you proofread.
  • Read out loud to spot errors and run-on sentences that reading silently risks missing.

Read Chapter 5 again


6. Digitising your photos - key points to remember

There are a few different ways you can digitise your photos, each with their own set of pros and cons.

  • Using a smartphone: this is quick and easy, but the results are adequate at best.
  • Using a dedicated scanning app: Google’s free PhotoScan app is better than a smartphone’s camera, but still leaves a lot to be desired.
  • Using a scanner: if you or a friend owns a scanner - great! Scanners produce great results, but the process is very laborious and time-consuming.
  • Get professional help: this is the best and most reliable way to digitise your photos. If you don’t have access to any of the other options, there are plenty of companies that offer scanning services that will digitise your photos. All you need to do is send them in.

Read Chapter 6 again


7. Designing and printing your book - key points to remember

We recommend you leave a lot of the design process to the professionals. If you would like to have a go yourself, here’s what you need to think about:

  • What typeface do you want to use? Serif or sans serif?
  • What size book do you want to end up with? A5? A4? Square?
  • How many photos do you want to include?
  • How many copies do you want to order?
  • Hardcover or softcover? Full colour or black and white?
  • How much will shipping cost?

Read Chapter 7 again


8. How to make your book cover stand out - key points to remember

Designing your book cover is an important part of the design process when it comes to writing a memoir. Again, we would advise that you consult a professional designer, but we’ve provided some tips and common themes within book cover design if you want to have a go yourself.

  • Keep it simple: your cover doesn’t have to be extravagant, just eye-catching. Use relatable imagery or clever typography to draw potential readers in.
  • Use photography: if you’re unfamiliar with design software, why not experiment with a camera?
  • Design for your genre: whether or not the theme of your memoir is romance or thriller, or entirely unique, there are certain thematic structures you can use so the audience knows what to expect. For example, book covers for romantic stories tend to depict a couple and use muted pastels.

 Read Chapter 8 again


We can help!

If this all seems like an awful lot of hard work, that’s because it is! But don’t worry. This is where we come in.

Story Terrace is revolutionising the way we think about our heritage with a simple idea: a biographer for every person. We match you with a carefully chosen professional writer, who will conduct in-depth interviews and ultimately, write your story. Your beautiful, hardcover, full colour books will be delivered to your door, and you don’t need to worry about a thing - because we’ve got you covered!

Whether you’re looking for a writer, or you just need a little help editing - contact Story Terrace for more information about how we can help with your story today.

Written by Sarah Evans
Image credits: by Artists Mentioned in All Chapters

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