Memoir Writing – Approaching the Writing

    Published: 06-16-2009
    Views: 9,661
    Personal history publisher Kitty Axelson-Berry discusses how to approach the actual writing process.

    Kitty Axelson-Berry: Hi! I am Kitty Axelson-Berry with the Association of Personal Historians. Today I am talking about how to write and publish your memoir, and now I am going to discuss how to approach the actual writing process. Writing is a lot like thinking, there is no one way to do it. Some people like to write habitually in a particular place, at a particular time. Some like to write a little at a time. Others go on writing retreats. When and where to write is personal and you might have to try a few different approaches to see what works for you.

    Meanwhile, the writing process can be long. It should be done over a long period of time, perhaps as many as five or even ten years, so you want to make sure that you are comfortable. Either way, sit down, get out your paper and pen, or your computer, or even your tape recorder, and start telling the first story on your list of stories. Remember that everything you write is about you and your experiences, it's not about other people and what they did. So write the story just the way you remember it. Start at the beginning, the middle, or the end, and don't worry about the quality of the writing right now, you will have plenty of time to review and rewrite.

    What happened, when was it, where was it, what was in the background, how did it feel, what happened next, write down your true memory in your own words, so that it reflects you and so that your descendents can feel as if they know you, as if they are sitting in the same room with you, sharing as they are reading it.

    Some people want a dramatic literary memoir. If that's you, you will want to shape each story and you might even have to fabricate quite a few details and add conversations. A classic approach to this, as taught by Tristine Rainer in 'Your Life as Story', is to determine several things before you start writing the story.

    First, the desire and the problem that is interfering with that desire. A struggle takes place, and then the tension builds, followed by a crisis, where a decision must be made, finally the climax. You might also want to explain what you learned from the experience. For both approaches, the conversational approach or the literary story, tell one story at a time and get the basics down.