writing advice


 

Often, aspiring memoir writers ask me how to get started. Do they just hire a ghostwriter and pay for phone time to start telling their stories and getting them into documents? That’s one way to begin, but it is not the only way. I think it’s important to start the writing yourself so you can begin seeing the themes and lessons that you will want to emphasize in your memoir or book of life lessons. Let me offer some writing prompts for you memoir writers who are trying to figure out how to tell your life story.

 

Writing Prompt #1: Write the inspirational story of the moment in your life when you felt the most empowered. Use sensory detail—words that evoke sounds, sensations, visual images, and so on. What did it feel like to be in your body that moment when you spoke your truth? When you walked away from a bad situation? When you felt completely at one with the universe? When you knew you were okay, for the first time in a very long time? When you knew you had achieved success? (This story may end up being at the very beginning of the book.)

 

Writing Prompt #2: Write a story of being a young child playing. What toy were you playing with, and why did you enjoy playing with it? Use sensory detail. What did it feel like to lie on the rug in your family’s living room, or sit on the linoleum in your family’s kitchen, as you played? What were you imagining? What were you feeling? (This exercise can be very effective for drawing out of your unconscious mind a story that tells us something about who you are as an adult, what you value, and what the themes of your story are.)

 

Writing Prompt #3: Tell a funny story that captures your sense of humor. It could be a recent story or an old one from your childhood. Make sure that this story reveals your vulnerability, so that the reader relates to you person to person instead of just seeing you as an expert or leader.

 

After writing these stories, read them aloud. Make any changes to the writing you feel are necessary. Edit these stories as best you can, checking spelling and grammar.

 

Begin to think about what these stories have in common. What are your strengths, weaknesses, and interests as revealed in these stories? What, if anything, do your stories say to a reader about how you overcame challenges? What do they tell people about your personality?

 

All memoirs need a narrative arc. We need to see progress in the story as it takes us from the beginning, through the middle, and to the end. We need to watch you come of age, learn to run a successful business despite humble beginnings and mistakes along the way, grow into a person who has come to peace with your past and developed wisdom and a sense of clarity and purpose, and so on. Think about how you would sum up your memoir in a sentence. How would you describe it using two paragraphs that might be found on the back of the book or on the Amazon page for the book? Look at other books for examples.

 

Once you done some of the writing and started to get a sense of what the central story of your memoir is, think about whether you want to write a memoir, a life lessons book, or a self-help book with takeaway exercises and perhaps even an action plan for developing new habits. Do you want to write a personal history for yourself, your family, and your close friends, and perhaps mine it for stories to use in another book, such as a book related to your business as a speaker and consultant, or in a memoir about one specific time in your life?

 

Whether your plan is to publish the book for yourself and your family and friends, for a larger audience that includes fans of your work as an expert in your field, begin your writing today with these writing prompts for memoir writers. Even if you end up doing a life lessons book or a self-help book, you will be glad you wrote up these stories. Doing so will help you get a better sense of how to integrate your personal anecdotes into the book you want to write. A professional developmental editor or ghostwriter can better help you if you have put some time into writing some stories and putting some thought to the central story of your memoir. You will have an easier time conveying your vision of your memoir once you have written some of the stories, so be sure to get started with these memoir writing prompts!

 

(Do you want to know more about the difference between a developmental editor and a ghostwriter? A ghostwriter actually writes drafts of chapters. A developmental editor works with written material such as rough drafts of manuscripts or chapters. You can learn more about developmental editing by watching my video on cut-and-paste editing, available on YouTube.)

 

 

memoir writing life story life lessons

Writing prompts can help you get started with your memoir or other book that features your story.

 

 

writing advice


Often, aspiring writers are concerned about creating a unique voice in their writing. They want to sound like no one else, to express themselves in a way that thousands or even millions of people will find compelling. Maybe it’s unrealistic that any of us will truly sound like no one else, but we like to believe that our writing is a true expression of ourselves.
However, if we’re honest, we don’t have one voice any more than we have one side of ourselves. We act differently in different situations, and speak to our best friend one way and a stranger another. The words we use and our tone of voice change when we address different people. Thus, when we go to find our voice as writers, what we are really looking for is the right voice for the piece. The voice we use is determined by three factors:

–What we want to say
–What effect we want to have on the reader or readers
–Who our readers are

Think about it. Let’s say you want to complain about something. You will use different language than if you want to express deep gratitude. If your reader is your best friend, and you want her to feel empathy for you, you will use a different voice than the one you would use if your reader were the customer service representative of a company and you wanted to persuade that individual to replace the company’s defective product for free.
Perhaps you want to write about container gardening. Do you want your reader to container garden as well, and learn some basics about how to do it? Or are you simply writing a humorous essay about how you overcame your brown thumb and became overzealous about your bumper crop of parsley?

What effect do you want your writing to have on your reader? Do you want the reader to experience a particular emotion—if so, which one? Do you want the reader to take action? Do you want to persuade your reader to adopt your opinion?

What language will motivate, surprise, or amuse the person who has stumbled across your blog? What idea will grab the attention of your letter’s recipient?
We all want to express ourselves, but we also want to be heard. When you use a voice that appeals to your reader and serves the purpose of your writing by transforming that reader into a person who is entertained, intrigued, mesmerized, educated, fascinated, comforted, and so on, you not only get to experience the satisfaction of self-expression, but you also get the satisfaction of having your writing be truly appreciated. Remember, your writing voice shouldn’t be determined solely by you and your mood of the moment. Always remember your purpose and your audience.