Recently I was asked if I had any pointers for starting a memoir. As a matter of fact I do.
First, you need to know what your book is about. I’m not being snarky. It is vitally important that you know from page one what your book’s purpose is. The book shouldn’t just be about you. Your story needs to resonate with total strangers. Your story is about something bigger than you; you are simply the catalyst for the story.
Think of your favorite memoirs. Why are they a favorite? Could you understand the writer’s struggle? Identify with it? Did you care about the writer and cheer for her?
That’s what you want to happen with your own memoir; your story needs to capture the imagination of people you don’t know. How do you do that?
Write what your book is about. It might be easier to write a description in the third person instead of writing about yourself. Use several pages to write down all your ideas, then work toward narrowing it down to only a paragraph. When you understand what your book is really about, then you can imagine who your reader is and why that person will care about your story. Describe her needs and hopes.
As you write your memoir you will re-read this exercise to help you stay on track. Your memoir is you personal story, but that story will have greater meaning for your readers. If you write something that doesn’t reflect what the book is about, cut. But don’t make things up! Readers want honesty. Vulnerability. Blood.
Fiction is so much easier to write.