Memoir Writing – Deciding What to Write About

    Published: 06-16-2009
    Views: 12,336
    Personal history publisher Kitty Axelson-Berry provides practical advice about how to decide what to write about.

    Kitty Axelson-Berry: Hi! I am Kitty Axelson-Berry President of Modern Memoirs Publishing. Today I am talking about how to write and publish your memoir and I'm going to discuss how to decide what to write about. Start your memoir by listing all of the stories you could write about your life so far. I use a method introduced by Denis Ledoux Book, 'Turning Memories into Memoirs,' it's called a life list. This is a chronological list of experiences, people and places. It not only triggers memories, but helps you sort them out. To compile your life list, make columns for five year segments of your life. For example, birth to 4 years old, 5 to 9 years old and so on, add the years. Jot down very short, one or two word phrases about events, places and people from those times. Perhaps you recall moving a pet, a birthday party, an inspiring teacher. You will remember more and more as you go. So create your life list over a couple of weeks. Do any themes emerge, related experiences? Perhaps you were frequently ill or often in difficult circumstances, perhaps you loved a series of pets. What are those themes? You might want to make use of them later. Now, do any memories standout as truly significant? The kind of moments that changed your life, did becoming an Eagle Scout inspire you to teach English as a second language, and lead you to the peace core and to your spouse. Did your love for animals inspire you to become a veterinarian? Now look back at your life list. What stories would be the easiest to write about? What stories have you told before? Mark 25 stories in your life list to write about first, this is your story list. Of course, it isn't so easy for some people. If you're drawing a blank, and feel as if you don't remember enough, get out a pencil and paper and try mind mapping, drawing a map from your own mind of a place you have lived. When you walked in the front door, what room were you in? What was in front of you? What was to the left, to the right? Draw it.

    Similarly, another good way to trigger memories is to look at old photographs, preferably with someone who was there and get information about where and when it was taken, and who was in the photograph? Holidays and other unusual times are especially useful. So that's how to decide what to write about.