Who Are You? A Guide to Writing Your Memoir

Guest blog by Jacqx Melilli 

Everyone has a Story

Admit it. You’ve allowed another year to pass you by and the promise you made to yourself to write your memoir has not seen the light of day. Let me guess what your excuses might be:

  • Who’s going to want to read it?
  • I don’t have time
  • I don’t know where to start
  • I don’t know how to start
  • It might upset some people
  • What if I fail?

Maybe you had never thought about writing a memoir but are curious to know more. So, whether you’ve been procrastinating or simply curious, let me see if I can inspire you to move forward and get those words into print. One reason some people can’t accomplish their goal is that they try to do it alone. This makes it easier to give up. It’s a bit like trying to get fit without a personal trainer. Finding a writing mentor will keep you focused on finishing this worthwhile project.

I’ve heard so many incredible stories over the years. For some, procrastination resulted in their stories being lost forever. People don’t realise that their experiences will be valuable for generations to come. For some of my clients, writing their memoir resulted in a life-changing experience and has opened doors that offered unexpected opportunities.

What Legacy Do You Want To Leave Behind?

A eulogy is someone’s impression of you, which may or may not be completely accurate. Some people only show a version of themselves. Even people who are close to you may not know everything about you. Were you a star athlete in your youth? Did you escape a country at war? Were you persecuted after committing a heroic act?

One of my clients, Captain Rod Lovell survived an air crash after both engines failed shortly after take-off. He had 46 seconds to take action and made a split second decision to ditch the plane into Botany Bay in Sydney, Australia. His actions saved all lives on board and Rod was hailed a hero in the media. Six weeks later, he had his licence suspended and ultimately his aviation career destroyed. After spending the next 25 years attempting to clear his name, he decided that writing his memoir, titled From Hero to Zero, might be the only way to reveal the truth about what really happened. Little did he know it was to change the course of his life and have him back in the media spotlight.

Who Are You?

Have you ever asked yourself that question? We are complicated beings, and for me, the process of writing has been a journey of discovery of who I am underneath all those layers I’ve piled on myself. I have to admit, I still haven’t figured it out completely and I probably never will, but that’s okay as long as what’s had to be said has been said and someone has benefited along the way. The film Runaway Bride is a classic example of how some people morph themselves to how others want them to be. How well do people know you? How well do you know yourself? What legacy do you want to leave behind?

But I’m Not Famous

What’s fame got to do with it? A well-told story will resonate with people regardless of your social status. Personally, I think it’s more challenging to write a fictional story than a memoir. When you write a memoir, you don’t have to make up a bunch of lies, create believable characters and problems, then figure out how to solve them. However, you do need to make sure your story is intriguing and of value to the reader regardless of what kind of book you write.

With the help of an editor, your aim should be to come up with a unique way to present your story. You never know whether you’ll end up with a best-seller and become famous, like Scott Pape, author of The Barefoot Investor. Scott used a devastating life experience to teach people how to overcome financial hardship. His book is quirky and has a unique approach to sharing financial advice that is easy to understand and has appealed to, and changed the lives of, millions of readers.

All it takes is for you to present your story in a way that will resonate with your readers or answer the questions they hope to find in your book. The first step is to figure out what makes you unique? If you’re not sure, ask those who are close to you.

Who Would Want to Read Your Memoir?

Besides family and friends, readers who are interested in the theme or topic you are basing your memoir on, and WRITERS would like to read your memoir. I have read countless memoirs and autobiographies to research information for my projects. Some authors have spent years researching a particular topic they are passionate about and have chosen to share it in their book for our advantage.

If there are already many books on the market with a similar theme to your memoir, such as overcoming addiction, dealing with obesity, secrets to setting up a successful business, or your rags to riches story, I recommend reading as many as possible and approaching your story with a different angle that has your unique branding.

Can you recall books that have resonated with you enough to prompt you into action? This is where working with a writing mentor or editor helps guide you in the right direction to help make your book stand out.

You may choose to simply share special memories with family members and the generations to come rather than create a book for commercial gain. It’s still of great value and better and more personal than any gift you can purchase, in my opinion.

Reasons NOT to Write Your Memoir

Seeking Revenge is not a good reason to write a memoir. Most readers are discerning and will not appreciate an author’s attempt to manipulate their emotions by blaming others, being vindictive, or playing the victim to get readers on their side. This is an egotistical approach and usually has the reverse effect. 

Life Experiences That Make Interesting Memoirs

Take a moment to think about your life experiences. Here are some examples:

  • The journey to becoming a professional dancer or athlete
  • Ground breaking research or years of accumulated research
  • Collector of… and the extremes you went to obtain those collector items
  • Generational skills passed on such as farming, costumery, bush survival
  • Military service
  • Near death experience
  • Escaping domestic violence
  • Recovering from bankruptcy
  • Building a business from an idea
  • Recovering from sickness against the odds
  • Looking after someone who is severely disabled
  • Missionary work
  • Living off the grid

Be Creative

If you are an artist or photographer, you can approach your memoir in a creative way, such as a coffee table book. Artist, Lyn Marshall’s Harnessing the Power of the Creative Spiral is one example that I love as it encourages and challenges you to live the life designed for you and is filled with her magnificent artwork. If you want to share your travels, you might want to create a photographic book that includes your travel stories. If you love to cook, you could create a special recipe book with stories of how you acquired each recipe. I created a recipe book to pass on to my children that included their favourite recipes growing up and a photograph of the person who passed on the recipe. They love it.

Working With a Writing Mentor or Editor

If you choose to write your memoir for commercial purposes, it’s very important to find a writing mentor or editor to guide you along the way. Family members and friends are not professionals. They will tell you want you want to hear so as to not hurt your feelings. Or, they may be brutal and crush your dream of publishing after all your hard work. Writing is not as easy as people think. Even professional writers work with editors. Don’t even think about publishing a book without hiring an editor first. Once it’s in print, there’s no turning back without it costing you in more ways than monetarily.

Publishing Options

If your memoir has a competitive edge, you may want to submit it to a traditional publisher, or you may choose to self-publish and have full control of the production, marketing and profits. If the content is of particular interest, the money you invest in writing and publishing could continue to make you money for years to come, as long as you find distribution channels to assist you with selling in bulk. Some of my clients have written their memoir as a business marketing tool, or some sell copies after their speaking engagements.

Sell Your Memoir as a Article

If you feel that what you have to share doesn’t merit the effort of writing an entire book, you may like to consider writing an article of a few thousand words to submit to a magazine. Search out magazines that suit your story topic and submit a pitch to the magazine editor. Some magazines pay for well-written articles and you’ll have the thrill of seeing your story in print.

Image by Marc Schaefer

So, have I stirred up a desire to get started on your memoir?

Time is priceless and yet it slips through your fingers like sand. Begin the journey of self-discovery today by booking a free consultation with me at info@jacqx.com. Tell me a little about yourself and the best times to contact you. I look forward to hearing from you.

Jacqx Melilli – Contributor

Jacqx Melilli has a Master of Arts degree in Writing and Literature from Deakin University and has several publications including stage plays, educational books on filmmaking and theatre production, poetry, short stories and film scripts. One of her passions is assisting people to write and edit their stories. For more information on how to write your memoir, check out Jacqx interview on Media Queen TV.

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