Memoirs can take on many forms, but at the heart of a readable memoir is honest and genuine writing. Jay Artale, co-host of our Beginners' Self-Publishing Salon podcast, looks at the challenges of writing a memoir and shares a selection of articles that offer tips and inspiration to overcome the writing dilemmas that are getting in the way of self-publishing your own memoir.
In the worst memoirs, you can feel the author justifying himself – forgiving himself – in every paragraph. In the best memoirs, the author is tougher on him- or herself than his or her readers will ever be. Darin Strauss
I was texting on Skype with David Penny the other day. He's one of the co-hosts of our Members' Q&A podcast, and is one of the co-organizers of our 3X a year Indie Author Fringe online conference. But we weren't chatting about work.
We were procrastinating on our respective writing projects, and because there had been nearly 500 aftershocks after the recent earthquake in Bodrum where I'm living (and I also spent 20+ years living on a fault-line in Los Angeles), we engaged in some time-wasting banter about what I should call my memoir (if I ever finish it). My favorite offering from David was “At the Crack of Dawn” because I loved the association with waking up to the sound of the Güneş Ezan (call to prayer), which happens at dawn from our neighborhood mosque before the sun appears. My best efforts were “My Faulty Life”, “All my Faults”, and “Faulty Towers”!
Choosing a title is just one of the decisions to be made when writing and self-publishing a memoir. I started work on my own life-transition memoir about nine years ago when we purchased our house in Turkey and I began implementing my escape plan from my enjoyable, but predictable, corporate 9-5 in Los Angeles. This writing project is sleeping quietly in a Scrivener folder in Dropbox and at the bottom of my current priority list, I'm just not sure if I'm ready “put myself out there” with that memoir, but I am nudging another memoir-style book towards the finish line.
Are you brave enough to write an honest memoir?
It takes a brave author to write honestly and brutally about their life's events and experiences. One of our ALLi members, Jessica Bell, recently published a revealing and candid memoir called Dear Reflection: I Never Meant to be a Rebel.
It's authors like this who inspire and motivate the rest of us to take that leap of faith to transport our life's adventures and misadventures onto a page with words.
If you're considering writing a memoir and need some motivation from writer's who have gone down a similar path, here's a selection of blog posts from this website to add fuel to your inspirational fire.
You have to be driven to write a memoir, and your book needs to be a journey of discovery for you as the author, and more importantly, your readers. A memoir can entertain, educate, or inform – but the most powerful memoirs also inspire. If it doesn't play any of those roles, then don't waste your time writing it.
Reasons for Writing a Memoir
When Elaine Pereira self-published her memoir, it not only helped her cope with the loss of her mother to Alzheimer’s-related dementia, it offered comfort and inspiration to readers who were experiencing the same challenges and experiencing similar emotions.
I'm currently writing a poetry collection about my mother's own journey down the Alzheimer's path, and one line from Elaine's blog post resonated with me,
You have to laugh in order to survive.
My Alzheimer's poetry collection is a mixture of wry, heart-felt and LOL inducing poetry designed to show the turmoil and the lighter-side of the Alzheimer's experience. As a writer, your goal is to engage and move your reader, and sharing personal story is an ideal way to provide the author with a cathartic release, and your reader to feel connected. I usually write travel guides so this diversion into writing about something so personal is a big leap. If you're feeling the same reticence about putting your own name to your words, what are your options?
You can turn your fact into fiction or publish your memoir under a pen name.
Turning Fact into Fiction
You may not be ready to spill your guts in a warts and all memoir, so another option would be to turn your fact into fiction. Helena Halme started to write and autobiography, but new plot lines and characters kept infiltrating the story, so about half way through the writing process she decided she'd give in to my novelist tendencies and carry on writing a fictionalised book of the true story.
In an another article, Helena provides us with 10 tips for turning Fact into Fiction, to create a fictionalized version of your memoir.
Using a Pen Name for your Memoir
If you're going to write a memoir it has to be anchored in the truth, but how much truth do you reveal? And if you feel you've revealed too much or have been too honest, you could self-publish your memoir under a pen name.
British indie author Denise Barnes shares the story behind her pen-name for her debut book.
I toyed around with the idea of using a pen name for my Alzheimer's poetry collection, but am throwing caution to the wind and claiming it as my own. Maybe this first step into the memoir arena will inspire me to finish the one memoir languishing in my Dropbox.Writing: Are you brave enough to publish a #memoir using your own name? Click To Tweet