Defining Your Memoir, Its Purpose, and Your Intended Reader

You’ve decided you want to write a memoir. This decision can come about for any number of reasons:

  • You may be in pain and want the catharsis that writing about the situation will give you.
  • You may be confused or troubled and want to explore your thoughts and feelings about a situation or relationship in order to resolve it within yourself.
  • You may have learned some life lessons through something you’ve endured and want to share those with others.
  • You may want to immortalize an experience or person by getting something down on paper.
  • You may want to become a writer, and what better way to start than to begin to chronicle your own personal experiences.

I hope you’re ready for the ride of your life, but you may not be as ready as you’d like to think. And that’s okay. Because there’s no way we can prepare for the roller coaster of emotions that writing about our life experiences and relationships can bring up. Even if you’re writing about your backpacking trip in the Himalayas, you’re bound to come up against some unexpected questions and emotions and will then have to explore them. That is both the pain and the joy of memoir writing.

How do you know if you’re ready? Or if you’re not? If you’re not ready, you’re just thinking that you’d like to, sort of, maybe someday write your life story. But if you’re ready, or getting ready, you’ll know because the idea for your story wakes you up in the morning and is the last thing you think about when you go to bed at night. You find yourself thinking about it at odd times of the day. You’re replaying scenes from your life in your head over and over. Your story has you by the gut and it won’t let go.

A warrior, when called to battle, does certain things to prepare. As does a contractor when getting ready to build a house. Or an artist gathering his supplies to create a painting. As a memoir writer, while the writing is a journey and, going in, you can’t know every single thing that’s going to happen ahead of time, there are a few basic pieces of prep work that will give you a bit of direction. At the very least, you want to think about scope, structure, tone, audience, and theme. Oh, and what’s driving you to write this story and write it now.


This partial lecture came from the course Writing the Memoir 101

In this course you will:

  • Explore the types of personal memoirs and decide which type fits your work best
  • Learn how to downplay your writing weaknesses and cultivate your writing strengths
  • Discover which stories and experiences to include in your memoir
  • Create your Cast of Characters and a solid outline to keep your writing on track
  • Write up to 7,000 words of your memoir
  • Get helpful and useful tips from experts

Learn More About our Writing the Memoir 101 Workshop!

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