The writing of my memoirs now fills two increasingly popular books of collected life stories about growing up in Michigan’s rugged, isolated, and enchanting Upper Peninsula. My first book, The Wishing Years, was published in 1995. The second book, A Tree Grows in Trout Creek, is in production now and will be available for shipping in three to four weeks. The first book became popular with people of all ages. The second book is bringing back second-time buyers–an author’s dream come true!
How did I start? I began by reading, immersing myself in the kinds of stories and books that I planned to write–memoirs, biographies and journals. From reading, I confirmed that I was, indeed, on the right track. There was a market for such works as my planned memoirs.
My next step was to make a list of any memory or memory fragments that I could recall. (Lists are wonderful tools for writing.) Next to each memory, I wrote my age at the time of the occasion and then organized the list by age. This gave me a Life Map to work with.
From the Life Map, I chose the memory that elicited my strongest emotional response and began to write. (I write directly on the computer, but you can create the same result writing by hand.) I asked myself the following questions: Where did this memory occur? Was there anyone in the memory with me? Who? When? What could I see, hear, smell, taste? The most important question I asked was: Why did this memory evoke such strong feelings for me? Would it impact my potential readers in the same way? I hoped it would.
Without editing or questioning my work, I simply put the words with feelings and all I could remember about the memory down on paper. Then I took a short break before going back to read what I’d written. I found that taking a break away from my work gave me new vigor toward fleshing out the story. I was also surprised to learn that, when I went back to the story, I could remember more about the event and could also see where I might wish to change some of the phrasing. After completing the desired changes, I read the story out loud to find any missing words or errors. Finally, I was ready to share the story with someone else, hear his or her response and decide if I wanted to make further revisions.
These, then, are the ten easy steps I use–and you can, too–to successfully complete living memoirs and life stories, one story at a time. The stories multiply and soon a book becomes an exciting reality. Now, what could be easier–or more exciting and satisfying–than that?
Write Your Life Story in 10 Easy Steps:
2. List memories.
3. Organize by age.
4. Ask: where, who, when.
5. Ask what you see, hear, smell, taste.
6. Define emotional response.
7. Write draft.
8. Read aloud.