Every life story is unique, but some of the mistakes we make while writing our stories are universal. We’ve gathered a few things to avoid while working on your memoir. These aren’t necessarily “rules,” but rather strong suggestions to take into consideration while you’re working through the writing process.
Don’t just work with the facts
Your life story is just that: a story. Your memoir should read as more than just facts. There should be descriptive imagery, a theme, details that draw the reader into your story. When you work only with the facts, you run the risk of your memoir being kind of boring, which your life has definitely not been! Do your life story justice and write it in a way that speaks to what actually happened. Include all the details you can. You want to really put your writer in your shoes and allow them to experience your life as you did.
Don’t get hung up in the backstory (or someone else’s story)
This seems obvious, but think about it. How many times have you been told a story that included far too much backstory of one of the participants involved? Is it actually important to your life story that your sister lived in Taiwan for ten years, and why do you need to include that level of detail? We say this a lot: think about the message you want to deliver, the reason you’re telling your story in the first place, and stick to the events — and people — that actually contribute to your theme.
That’s not to say you can’t include great anecdotes or funny moments. Just don’t worry about explaining things that aren’t as important to you and your own life. This is about you, after all.
There are things you just may not feel comfortable telling the world, and that’s okay. If you feel like you can’t write about something and be okay with others reading it, it’s perfectly fine to omit it. However, lying about experiences to make them seem softer (or alternatively, making them more interesting) is something to avoid. Not only does it prevent you from actually telling your life story, but it prevents you from being authentic with your readers.
Ultimately, your goal is to tell the truth, more or less, about the fascinating things that have happened in your life, and what you learned from them that you want to share. When you do that, you create a powerful memoir that can affect your readers’ lives.