Five tips for memoir writers

One of my students asked me to nominate my five top tips for writing a well crafted memoir.  At first, I was going to say that you can’t cover the topic in five dot points, but then I decided to view the question as a challenge.  So, here goes:

  1. Shape your memoir around scenes.  Add summary and reflection later.  Scenes help your reader connect and engage with the story.
  2. Cultivate your own voice on the page.  This takes time and lots of rewriting but when you have found your memoir voice, then the reader starts to trust you.
  3. It is not the events in your life that matter but the meaning you make of them. That doesn’t mean you can lie about the events; it just means you have to do more than report events.
  4. Leave stuff out.  It’s hard, I know, but don’t be like the bore who tries to tell you over breakfast each morning everything that happened in his dream the night before.  Select.  What you choose helps you follow tip number 3.
  5. Work with dual vision.  When you write about yourself, one part of you is the narrator, one part is the subject of the story.  Use that double vision to reflect back on your own life and create a layered story for the reader.

Anyone got any other quick tips to add here?

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