Jump Right In!
Are you new to writing memoir? I always tell my students to begin anywhere. Just begin.
In other words, unless you’re a terribly structured person, the best way to begin a memoir is to take notes as thoughts occur to you. Don’t worry about structure at this point. That will come later, when you see for yourself what you have got—what’s important, and what is just trash. This is a long process, weeding out slowly what’s not needed—and it’s a painful one, but necessary.
photo by Annie Spratt
Who Is Your Audience?
The important thing is to just start. As you begin writing your memoir, and you accumulate your information, you will find yourself writing for yourself, ideally. Give yourself some breathing room and don’t, whatever you do, try to edit as you go. I can’t say this enough.
Believe me, I’ve tried it both ways, and editing on the fly as you’re trying to get your thoughts down on paper will just frustrate you unnecessarily, and completely halt the flow of your writing.
Any writing teacher will tell you this. You cannot get your words down on paper while you’re evil twin is perched on your shoulder, criticizing every word.
This sort of process stops a lot of people from ever beginning again, because of course, your inner critic is your most harsh one, and will undoubtedly tell you you’re no good. Don’t listen. Just write.
Maybe your audience IS only yourself. That’s okay. Writing is therapeutic, always.
How to approach, writing about a sister you don’t get along with or who has done something inexcusable? Perhaps you can look behind the difficulties to see what has motivated her. Let her see the passage first, or if you were at least speaking before, perhaps you won’t be after your book published. You need to be empathetic and understanding as best you can, especially about living people.
How would you handle this?
Meanwhile, here is some good advice from one who knows:
“The secret to writing a memoir is that it’s more of a journey and a process than a single destination. We are always becoming and learning as we write.” —from “Writing Your Story Will Change You.” by Linda Joy Myers, National Association of Memoir Writers