What Is A Memoir?

What Is A Memoir?

According to Google, a historical account or biography written from personal knowledge is called a memoir. 

It consists of the key moments in your life that has made you who you are today.

Dreams From My Fatherby Barack Obama is an example.

Your life’s events in a story-like structure with a written message qualifies as a memoir.

Other books like “how to,” “motivational books,”  do not qualify as a memoir.


A memoir is a historical written with personal knowledge and experience covering the lifetime of an individual, usually with a greater purpose or message within it.

A memoir and an autobiography might seem similar as they’re both about someone’s life written by themselves. But they’re not. What is the main difference between the two?

A memoir usually covers one aspect of a writer’s life, while an autobiography is the chronological account of the writer’s life.

If you are thinking about writing your life’s story from the day you were born till where you are today, it would be an autobiography.

If you want to share a deep message with the world through your life’s experiences, you’re writing a memoir.

Writing a memoir can be tough. How do you sum up years worth of experience to put into words? These elements will help you. 

Pick A Theme

A memoir consists of a message readers can take away from what you wrote. Think about what your readers will learn from your experiences. Will they learn, gain or realise anything from your writing? Whats your main message? Ask your self these questions before you pick a theme. 

Create A List Of Memories

The first thing to do after picking a theme is to create a list of your memories. Don’t try to force yourself too much. Give it some time, and it will come to you when you begin writing.

Here are some areas to help jog your memory:

  • Childhood
  • Primary school
  • Your teen years
  • First job
  • First love
  • Parents/ siblings/ family
  • High school
  • Friends
  • Your dreams
  • Aspirations
  • Failures
  • Successes
  • Regrets
  • Children/ grandkids
  • Resentments

You can also look at old photos and videos to recollect your memories. It’s always best to relive them.

All these areas influence on how you perceive life. All you gotta do is a little digging to jolt some specific memories for your memoir.

Ask Yourself Questions 

After creating a list of memories ask yourself questions like

  • What is the starting moment of this story?
  • What did I want most at the time of these memories?
  • Which is the moment where I definitely get, don’t get?
  • What is the lesson I learned?

How To Start

A strong introduction is everything. Without it, the ability to hook readers will be tough. 

Message Must Be Clear 

What is it you’re trying to say? Why did you want to start writing at all? It’s your job to determine how your experiences can aid and affect others.

Add Others’ Stories

Although the memoir you’re writing is about your life, you can write a bit about other people as well. At times, you can’t get the message across if only you have experienced it. To make your readers related to your memoir more, you need to make them understand that many people have experienced the same thing.

Showing your readers that other people have experienced the same thing and resulted in the same perspective as you can be a good thing.

To write about others, you need to do a lot of research. Make sure you’re using their experiences legally in your memoir.

You can also interview family and friends who see the same experience as you differently.

These details help strengthen your core message.

Be Honest 

Being biased towards ourself while writing a memoir is a habit one must overcome. No-ones likes to admit their fault. It’s human nature for everyone to show the best version of themselves to people, but that doesn’t make a good memoir.

If you want people to be touched

Be Descriptive 

You have to be descriptive if you want your readers to be intrigued by what you wrote. Creating intrigue with your writing is a must for a memoir.

Being descriptive lets you describe your experience with an emphasis on emotion, but at the same time, don’t write every feeling you felt at a specific time.

  • Use fewer words like I heard, I smelled, I saw, etc.
  • Stop explaining the emotions and try to be more descriptive (if you want to say you’re happy, describe how you’re floating on cloud 9, and you can’t stop smiling)
  • Describe body language in detail.
  • Use strong verbs that create more impact ( crashed to the floor > fell to the floor).

Be Vulnerable 

Don’t be an alien to your feelings when writing your memoir. In fact, this is the time to dig deep and show the world what kind of author you are. The more you shield yourself, the less effective your memoir is.

At first, you might find it hard to write about your true self, but later you’ll understand it’s all for a good cause.

Make Connections

Every story you tell has to connect to your focus, but not all of them directly relate to it.  Some experiences may have led you to moments of realisation, and those moments would have led you to other events that tie to the main message you want readers to gain.

Experiences  —> Moments of realisation

Talk About Now 

Memoirs usually consist of looking back at your life and evaluating how you made it today. The events that lead you to where you are today.

Your memoir should also consist of sneak peeks of your life presently.

Bring back your readers to the present day in each chapter and how it affected you. 

Be you

A memoir indicates that it’s 100% you. Your memoir should be proof of your real personality. When readers read it, they should the authentic you and not just what you want them to know about you. Don’t be afraid to write how you speak.

If you tell jokes, use cuss words or use a few phrases regularly, write it. Italicize words you emphasise when speaking.

5 Things To Avoid If You Want Your Memoir To Sell

  • First Attempt At Writing. They say your first book never really sells and only your third or fourth will. It doesn’t apply only to memoirs.
  • Reliving your pain. If you’re writing about your traumatic experience as part of your therapy or recovery, it’s probably a bad idea to publish it.
  • Consists collection of entries from a diary or journal you or a family member kept, or letters sent and received.Use these for research, not as a story itself. If you do use them, use it sparingly with a bigger narrative.

–   Your memoir is an autobiography. A memoir usually covers one aspect of a writer’s life , while an autobiography is the chronological account of the writer’s life.

If you thinking about writing your life’s story from the day you were born till where you are today, it would be an autobiography.

  • You wrote it for someone else. This is pretty self-explanatory. Like I said, a memoir has to be in-depth and should involve your feelings. You can’t write for someone else as you don’t know their feelings.
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