Memoir Writing – One Story at a Time Adds Up

Envisioning your autobiography as a series of stories makes the sizable task of writing the stories of a lifetime tolerable and ultimately enjoyable. Memoir writing does not have to be an intimidating task. Lifestories, written singly just as they are told, one by one, add up to a memoir.

When I ask people if they can write a 3-, 4-, 5- or even 7-page story, most will answer, “Sure I can do that.” Ten 3-page stories add up to 30 pages while ten 7-page stories add up encouragingly to 70 pages. Even better, twenty 7 page stories make a 140 page lifestory manuscript! Any of these is an impressive start and a worthwhile goal.

When I write a book, I write it several pages at a time. Were I to ask a beginning writer, “can you produce a 140-page story for me?” most would blanch and then protest, “I can’t write that much!”

Are you perhaps feeling the same crisis of confidence as you hesitate at the beginning of your lifewriting venture? Do you ask yourself how you will ever compose a book-length manuscript? Instead, think of writing stories that are just long enough to enjoy sharing at an evening gathering with family and friends.

Creating your book is a later task. Some writers decide to connect their stories with transitions and seed their texts with references to other stories so that the whole manuscript will read like a continuous piece–like a fabric sewn together so cleverly that the seams don’t show. Others are satisfied with a manuscript that reads more like an anthology of separate stories–juxtaposed, yet one story independent of any other, with only emotional and thematic links apparent.

These decisions about how to link text together comes later in the writing process, however. Your first task is to be perfectly clear about one thing: start writing!

Good luck Writing!


About Denis Ledoux

Denis Ledoux began helping people to turn their memories into memoirs in 1988. Denis was named Lifewriting Professional of the Year by the Association of Personal Historians in 1996. Today, Denis is a writer, educator, teacher, autobiography co-author, memoir-writing coach, editor and publisher. He directs The Memoir Network, an international group of memoir professionals who use his method and materials to help people write lifestories. Denis also offers writing tele-classes and leads memoir writing tele-groups.
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