Memoir has become increasingly popular in recent years with actors, footballers and all manner of celebrities publishing in the genre. It is also a much loved vehicle for retiring politicians. But memoirs are sometimes best when the writer has not scaled the dizzying heights of fame or fortune. Their story is new for one thing and the reader is discovering a new voice. There are many good reasons to self-publish your memoir. You keep control over your own narrative and decide what you want heard and you can be involved at every stage. Some people write to have something for friends and family. Some people write because they need to. Midge Gillies once wrote in a Guardian piece that, according to the main character in Stephen Poliakoff’s TV drama “Perfect Strangers”, “every family has at least three great stories waiting to be told”. Gillies says “If you want to write a memoir or family history you only need one to get you started”. Maybe you don’t really know why you want to write your memoir, but you know you have a story which may need to be seen and should be seen and that’s as good a reason as any to start your first sentence.
So, What’s the difference between Memoir and Autobiography?
Put simply memoir relies on memory more than fact. A memoir relies on a story told by the first person in whatever way they feel the story can be told. It need not be chronological. It is, like autobiography, subjective and personal but it is very much your recollection of events or places. It is said that autobiography is more historical and as such needs research, facts and dates. Memoir can have these too, but memoir does not rely on these ordered events and dates. Your memoir relies on the truth as you see it.
Where Do You Start?
Again the simple answer is, wherever you like. Some people start in a practical manner, at the beginning of their life, the early days, the formative years and so on. Others start in the middle and bounce back and forth through time and some people focus on events. Some people combine some of the traits of autobiography with memoir. All are valid for your story. It is up to you to decide. Authors over the years tell us the most important thing is to start. Start writing what matters. You can always put order on it later.
Tips for Self-Publishing Your Memoir
- Get someone who does not know the story to read it. Better still, try to get someone who doesn’t know you to read it. If they find it engaging, other people may too.
- If your memoir is something you want for your family, try to get someone in your family to read it. They might be able to fill in some gaps or have some hidden gems to add. They might be able to help on places or dates if they are needed to give a bit of context. This is your story rather than a formal autobiography, but you might find others can jog your memory.
- Think of the important things in your life. It can be a big event or a small one, a childhood memory or a moment of revelation. This may be a good place to start writing. You can fill in blanks later or write around the event. It’s your story and you can place it wherever you feel is right.
- Prepare to be honest. Even if you decide to leave things out, often readers find that an open telling of a story has more impact. You can even look back at how you were, how you are now or how your story has re-inforced your character or belief system.
- Write in your own voice. It’s your memoir in your tone and style. Be yourself.
Challenge yourself and embrace the process. Writing can be emotional, happy or sad or tinged with regret or hope. It may make you laugh or cry at different times. Remember that there is a reason you are writing this, whether you tell the reason to the reader or not. Above all else, this is your story, told your way. Enjoy it.
If you are thinking of self-publishing your memoir, contact Selfpublishbooks.ie to discuss getting your book into print.