Like many of you, I sometimes find myself wondering what legacy I’ll leave behind. I’m blessed to have experienced love, professional success, and the joy of having children and grandchildren in my life. But, of course, I’ve had trials, tragedy, and trauma that I’ve had to endure, like anyone else. It’s in some of these darker moments that I learned critical lessons about life and survival for which I’m forever grateful. And it’s those lessons that I hope to share one day — not only with friends and family — but with the world through a memoir.
Typically, a memoir is a story that covers a portion — weeks, months, years — of someone’s life. Memoirs are often written by everyday people like you and me and can start at any point along the author’s life story. If you’ve experienced great challenges and have learned valuable lessons along the way, you have a message inside you that can change lives, save lives, or transform society.
Your story deserves to be told. In fact, I believe it is your responsibility to tell it. But a lot of first-time authors get caught up in how to approach writing their story and are overwhelmed before they even begin. When you’re imagining the process of writing a book, you have to recognize that it’s a large project and it’s not something you’re going to accomplish overnight. So what’s the key to tackling large projects? You break them down into smaller steps. How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time. And when you’re trying to write a book, fiction or nonfiction, that same concept applies — but you need to develop a step-by-step process.
Develop your step-by-step plan
When setting goals, it’s important to outline and create a plan. Without a plan to get to your goal accomplished, you will most likely look back a year from now and find that you haven’t achieved what you set out to do. How frustrating. The same is true when writing a book. When you create an outline, you develop a “book map,” which is a visual representation of your entire book. I contend that if you only have 20 minutes a day to write, you can finish a book in a year. You just need to develop a strategy for writing in 20-minute increments and assembling what you’ve written into a cohesive manuscript.
Develop a concept
A memoir is set in a period of time or covers a set of events in your life, rather than cataloging your experience from cradle to grave. In order for your memoir to have an audience beyond your friends and family, you need to develop a solid concept that bridges the space between your life and the life of your reader. As a publisher, I say your memoir needs a solid concept that invites the reader’s concerns into the experience of reading it, instead of just saying, ‘Let me tell you all about wonderful me.’ Consider the elements of your story that are universal and find ways to write them that will invite your readers to imagine and consider their own lives through the lens of your circumstances.
Make it captivating
Nonfiction books can be as captivating as their fictional counterparts through the use of sensory language that conveys what you saw, heard, smelled, and tasted during the pivotal moments you present. I tell my writers to close their eyes as they begin to write a pivotal scene in their memoir – to really take themselves back to the place, time, and emotion of the moment. Once you’ve transported yourself back to that moment, open your eyes and write your first draft. Once you’ve gotten it onto the page, take another pass and look for ways to vary your language to make it richer and more interesting.
The memoir market
Memoirs continue to be a steady seller, enjoying a 20 percent increase in sales from 2013 to 2020, according to Publisher’s Weekly. Memoirs that align with a universal theme, something of timely interest, or an organization, cause, or event tend to sell best.
What are you waiting for? What better time is there than now? Tomorrow is not promised, and someone needs your memoir today. When you share what you know and what you’ve learned, you become the solution. The answers are inside of you!
To Your Success,