WARNING: No matter who you are, or what your intentions were when you sat down to write, you will not be the same at the end of your memoir. You will be changed by the writing of your own story. And your story, in turn, will be changed as well.
Writing so deeply and personally about who you have been and what has happened to you changes your perspective on so many things. Perhaps the most impactful of these changes is how you view yourself after the awkward and enlightening experience of crafting the character of yourself in an honest way. This forces us to be (hopefully) more honest than we’re used to being with ourselves.
Whenever I have the privilege of doing a book reading or writing presentation, I always spend some time talking about the power of sharing your story. Everyone has a story, and everyone’s story is worth sharing, I say. I stand behind this. It is both true and important.
But in another way, it’s not true, right? Everyone has a story that has value in their own lives, within their own circle of humans. However, if you’re hoping to publish your story, to craft it into something marketable, the bar is a bit higher. And before you start down the long road of drafting it all out, editing it until your heart sweats and pitching it to agents, a good first step is to determine if your story is worth telling, not just to your friends and family, but to a larger audience of readers.
How can you know? To me, it comes down to two things: striking a balance between bizarre and relatable, and having a solid theme.
For whom are you writing your memoir? Is it really and truly just for you? Great. That’s super. You don’t really need to read any tips about memoir writing then, because it doesn’t matter how you go about it. Do whatever you want.
But more often, people are writing memoir to share their story. Whether you’re planning to hand it to your only child while on your deathbed or aim for publication and distribution on an global scale, the minute you decide who makes up that target audience, they become a necessary part to consider with every word you write.
And yet, if your memoir isn’t true to the story you want to tell, you’re doing your story a disservice. So you have to write for yourself. I know. Just like my thoughts on truth vs. facts in memoir last week, now it sounds like I’m contradicting myself. Apparently, I love to do that. But really, it’s all about balance. You are obviously an incredibly important part of your story. So is your audience.