This post is one of 26 I am writing for the A-Z Challenge on the subject of writing a memoir. I’m not an expert in writing memoirs, but I’m exploring the topic with thoughts about writing one, and am happy to share the fruits of my exploration.
The first memoir I wrote (and discarded) was organised by topic. Each chapter was about a different topic: parents, other family, secrets, religion, etc.
The second memoir, which I didn’t finish, was organised according to the long correspondence I had with Gill. I told her about events in the order I happened to think of them, and she gradually built up a picture of the girl she knew but didn’t know and the woman she’d only just met.
I don’t think either of those approaches could work as a memoir. There’s a reason why most memoirs are written in chronological order. Readers want to follow the writer’s journey through time and discover how the writer has changed over that time.
Going back to Gornick’s terms, readers want the story and not just the situation.
So I think my third attempt will begin at age one and progress to the current time, concentrating on childhood.
Note: I love to read your comments, especially when they’re attached to the right post. Please remember the Comment link is at the top of this post.
9 replies on “A-Z Challenge: O is for…”
I’m still enjoying your memoir posts. I’ve been looking forward eagerly to each one appearing. On the topic of Organisation, I chose mainly chronological order starting with the point of entry into the mental health system and beginning of treatment, as this led into the main theme around which the book was focused. Later, I used some flashbacks to fill in background details about childhood and of what led up to going into hospital. I felt this worked best for what I was trying to do.
Definitely, that worked very well in your case. Possibly, I could do something like that, although for me it’s not so clear where my story starts. Age 14? Age 11? Age 6? Age 3? Any of those could be a starting point.
Hi Miriam, you are so write when it’s the “story” not the situation. I’ve never written a memoir, not sure I could do it. It’s difficult getting to that story.
Hi Karen, memoirs aren’t for everyone, but I’m sure you could do it if you wanted to. Thanks for commenting 🙂
I hope to write a memoir some day, not for publication, for family only, but sitting down and writing it is hard. Love the tips though, thank you!
Nice to meet you Miriam via the A to Z challenge.
Nice to meet you. 26 posts about one book seems hard to me! Good luck with your memoir.
Interesting post! I think chronological order is usually best, but it must be hard to do! I know that when I remember things from my childhood I do get times mixed up (as my siblings like to inform me!) – but then my memory isn’t the greatest and I must be within at least a few years! I really admire you for writing your memoir – I’m not sure I could do it myself…
I couldn’t have written it at your age. I think it gets easier. Besides, I haven’t written it yet!
Of course… But you will! Yes, I suppose mid(er…late…ish) 30s is a bit young – not what some celebrities would have us believe! 😉