Writing memoirs: tips for your biography

So much happens in a long life: both difficult and light-hearted anecdotes and experiences. Many people would like to capture this for posterity and share their Writing memoirs.

But the question is: how to describe your memoirs in the most exciting and vivid way possible? And do you even start something like this? What options are there for publishing these memoirs afterwards??

We’ll be happy to give you the tips you need to help you write your memoir and stay with it…

Writing a memoir: Tips for your biography

➠ Content: What to expect

What motivates people to write their memoirs

I’m sure you’ve heard it from time to time when you tell one or two anecdotes from your life: "You should write a book about this!" This is how interested listeners like to respond to vivid descriptions of memories.

But it is a long way from a quick narrative to writing down your memoirs. The question on everyone’s mind who writes, at some point in the process at least once, is this: Is it even worth the effort? Does anyone actually want to read it?

Of course, we cannot answer the last question for you. But it should also not play a role at first.

After all, for most people, the motivation to write the memoir lies not in the outside world, but in each person themselves. Often these are, for example:

  • Sort and process your own memories
  • Gaining the feeling of leaving behind something lasting
  • Give pleasure to your descendants and loved ones
  • Fill your free time with a meaningful hobby
  • Encourage cognitive development

As you can see, writing a memoir is not at all about others, but primarily about yourself. And that’s the way it should be, because otherwise you won’t be able to keep up this laborious hobby over a long period of time.

How to get started with your memoir

All beginnings are difficult. This truism is also and especially true for writing. There are often thousands of thoughts and ideas running around in your head, but without a precise plan as to how this will ever lead to a meaningful, complete text.

Therefore, we recommend the following procedure at the beginning, so that you can first structure yourself and your thoughts:

  1. Keep a written record of all ideas
    This can be done in a variety of ways: Some use a small notebook for their memories, others create a mind map on a large piece of paper, and still others simply type their thoughts wildly into the computer. However you go about it: You should take a few days for this step. Not all memories come to mind immediately. Much emerges again over time, including, for example, conversations with your partner or children.
  2. Create a framework from these ideas
    The beauty is: there are hardly any fixed rules for literature. Although spelling and grammar should be correct in the end, the structure of your memoirs does not necessarily have to be chronological. So sort your ideas in the way that makes the most sense to you. This can be done just as well with scissors and paper as with a computer.
  3. Outline your structure
    Once you have the framework, it is usually only a small step to the concrete structure: Think about an introduction, with which you give the necessary background information, the main part, in which you show the concrete experiences and conflicts, and the final part, in which you round off the whole and, if necessary, draw a personal conclusion or perhaps even venture an outlook. Your memoirs are thus structured like a good novel.
  4. Find a suitable place to write
    You should have a quiet, but at the same time inspiring and comfortable place where you can write undisturbed. It doesn’t always have to be the desk. In this age of laptops, this can be in nature, in the garden, or anywhere else in the world. The main thing is that you can eliminate disturbing factors. This also includes telephone or e-mail notifications, which you should put on mute.
  5. Start
    Which sounds so simple, falls many most heavily: The first lines formulate. At the same time, many of them trip themselves up with an excessive sense of entitlement. The beginning does not have to be perfect. Nearly every writer has revised the beginning of his book dozens of times in the course of its creation. So this shouldn’t stop you from simply writing the first few paragraphs.
  6. Ignore writer’s block
    This point is closely related to the previous one. Writer’s block is a myth brought up by perfectionists. No flow layer complains about a flow layer blockade. Allow yourself time and rest and then just start writing. Everything can be corrected later. You can also start in the middle and put the puzzle back together later according to your structure.
  7. Write simply
    Start with short sentences. Refrain from unnecessary nesting. Put emphasis on emotions when writing. "Show, don’t tell", is a famous piece of writing wisdom. So it’s all about creating images in the reader’s mind’s eye. Have the courage to illustrate your experiences vividly – you are welcome to use dialogues, but also metaphors or comparisons.
  8. Say goodbye to the scissors in your head
    Write simply. Don’t correct as you write – that comes sometime later and is a completely different process. The first thing is to get as many experiences as possible onto paper or into the file. Enjoy the process of reminiscing.
  9. Allow yourself breaks
    If the flow of writing falters: no problem. Take a break. Devote yourself to something else, go for a walk, read a book, or just daydream. Nobody rushes you!
  10. Set regular writing times
    Depending on your biorhythm, there are times when you are more creative than other parts of the day. Figure them out and then schedule them firmly for writing. It is best to write a little every day. Memoir writing will be much easier if you do a little bit every day, rather than working through hours of writing just one day a week.

Initially, it doesn’t matter whether you write with a pen on paper or with a computer. Use whatever medium you are most comfortable with. Many find writing with a fountain pen or ballpoint pen more inspiring.

Only if you want to publish the memoirs later, they should be available as a file. You can have these typed if you do not want to do so yourself.

Incidentally, it also helps in the writing process to give the first few pages to your partner or another trusted person to test-read early on. A different opinion and a different point of view can be enriching.

However, you should not be influenced in your basic direction. Remember: it’s YOUR memoir.

Tip: Perfect your writing style

A text should be descriptive and easy to read. So feel free to use figurative language. Reading is like watching television in your head. Stimulate the reader’s imagination with your words and sentences. We have some tips for you on this:

  • Formulate concretely and avoid catch-all terms.
    These prevent a concrete image from forming in the mind. Also, when choosing verbs, make sure to describe the action as concretely as possible. A very different image is created in the reader’s mind when they read, "He walks" or "He runs".
  • Write in the active.
    Sentences in active are more dynamic and understandable. Sentences in the passive voice are often awkwardly formulated. Instead of writing "He is being taught Spanish", write "He is learning Spanish".
  • Use rhetorical stylistic devices.
    Deliberate repetition such as "She left the house in a hurry, without a coat, without a bag, without a key" deliberately draws the reader’s focus to this sentence. Or how about an alliteration ("fresh, pious, cheerful, free") or a deliberately used contrast ("meaningful silence")? Hereby you can generate attention and design your memoirs stylistically varied.
  • Have the courage to leave a gap.
    Your life is certainly so rich in experiences that you will hardly be able to process everything. In this respect, a selection can only be subjective and that is a good thing. Memoir writing is not about completeness, but about what is most important to you and what moved you the most. So less is more.
  • Generate open-ended questions
    Stories only become exciting when the reader wonders what happens next. So don’t resolve every situation immediately, but keep deliberate open moments. Comparable to a cliffhanger in a television series at the end of each episode. Let the reader know only maximally what you knew in the respective situation.

This keeps you motivated to write

Many who write their memoirs lose motivation over time. There is nothing wrong with this in principle, but for those involved it is often a sense of failure and personal defeat.

Therefore, patience and composure are the highest principles when writing memoirs. Do not set yourself a deadline.

Rather, as mentioned, go at it every day for half an hour, an hour or two, and watch what comes of it.

It is important that you keep your joy in the process. So visualize the motivation why you are writing.

Imagine how you can proudly present your memoirs and delight your loved ones. This helps you stay on track even in tough moments.

Info: Publishing your memoirs

Who writes his memoirs, would like in most cases that these are also read. But you do not necessarily have to publish them for this purpose. It is also enough if you give it only to your relatives to read it.

The advantage of this is that you don’t have to deal with costs or privacy rights that you would have to obtain from everyone named if published.

If you still decide to publish, you should first be aware in which form this should be done: with or without pictures. Again, keep in mind that you will need to obtain the privacy rights of the people depicted for each photo you use and also find suitable captions for the photos.

Subsequently, there are two different ways to publish your memoir:

  • Look for a small, reputable publishing house that works in the print-on-demand publish small editions for a reasonable price. Bod.de, tredition.en or biography service.en have specialized in this area, for example, and offer a full service for as little as a few hundred euros, depending on your layout requirements and the amount of work involved – sometimes even including proofreading.
  • Publish your memoir as a E-book. At Amazon Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP) you can upload your text free of charge, quickly and easily and even sell it for small money. With the free software Calibre you can also put your memoirs into the appropriate format. If you do not want to do it on your own, you can also publish your text on the portal epubli.en Upload.

Alternative: Have memoirs written

An alternative for all those who do not trust themselves to write memoirs or do not feel like doing so, is the engagement of a ghostwriter. The writer writes your experiences on your behalf and assigns all copyrights and rights of use to you in return for a fee.

There’s nothing honorable about this: ghostwriters write for a variety of people who are more or less in the public eye. Your offer is a legal service, as long as it is not a scientific work.

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