Linda Thornburg: 30 Ways To Write A Memoir

Linda Thornburg runs the Memories Into Story website. 

Everybody wants a minute of fame. Here are thirty suggestions for recording parts of your life for family, friends and posterity.

1. Hire a ghostwriter. This is probably the easiest way to get your memoir done, but also the most expensive. Look for someone who will quote you a maximum price, and then find out what you will get for the amount quoted – writing, editing, rewrites. Plan to spend some time in interviews.

2. Hire a personal historian. Search on Google and you’ll find plenty.

3. Mine your journals for stories and inspiration. Or begin writing a journal and later turn it into something public.

4. Speak into a tape recorder and get someone to transcribe it. Then edit.

5. Ask your mother to speak into a tape recorder and talk about your life. Use as much as you want and fill in where necessary.

6. Join a memoir-writing group and write once a week. You can find them through community colleges and adult education facilities.

7. Spend one hour a day before you go to work on your personal story.

8. Target an online or print publication for an article. While you might not think of it as a full-blown memoir, it could be the beginning of something big.

9. Write yourself a bunch of letters over the course of a year and publish them.

10. Make a video memoir. Sit down in front of a camera and talk. Then edit.

11. Make a short video memoir of a minute or two. Publish it on YouTube.

12. Look at old photos and letters to trigger ideas.

13. Take short breaks at work and write a paragraph at a time.

14.  Write a six-word memoir like “Beautiful phoenix rising from the ashes.” See www.smithmag.net/sixwords/.

15. Write a column on some aspect of your life for a local newspaper.

16. Write short essays and string them together.

17. Take a tape recorder on long trips and speak stories about your life; then pay to have them transcribed. Hire an editor to string your stories together.

18. Write about pain. It’s therapeutic and it will give your writing energy and momentum.

19. Write about anger to discover new themes.

20. Stop writing when you know you have more to say. You’ll come back to the writing the next day.

21. Write a letter to the editor in which you describe a personal experience that supports your opinion.

22. Participate in an oral history project for a local library or community center.

23. Try something you’ve always wanted but were afraid to do, and then write about the experience.

24. Take a trip and write about it. Be personal in the way you tell your story.

25. Write about your cooking experiences.

26. Write about your eating experiences.

27. Write one scene from your childhood. Then write another.

28. Pretend you’re the hero of a comic book. What does the book say?

29. Pretend you’re an actor and the subject of the play is your life. What do you say?

30. If you were a wild animal, what would you be? Write something with that animal in mind. Hey, it’s just a starting place.

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