It’s always interesting to work in an industry where you are both the consumer and the provider, in my case, I work in publishing and read books all the time.

So when it comes to writing a manuscript of any kind, there are a few things that publishers look at in addition to what most readers will enjoy.

In this post, I’m going to go into pointers that can potentially help and encourage young and amateur writers to write their memoirs.

First things first, it is essential to start by differentiating between a Memoir and Autobiography. The one key difference between the two is that a memoir goes into depth on a selection of events in a person’s life, whereas the autobiography documents the whole life without a specific focus. A memoir can include events from the person’s entire life but these events all lead up to the main focus of the book, for example, how you went on to win the Pulitzer Prize for writing the most engaging blog posts in 2020.


  1. Ask Yourself

Before starting anything, my advice would always be to answer this one question ‘Why?’ and in this case ‘Why do you want to write a memoir?’. Your answer will surprise you. Be honest with yourself because your answer will suggest the overall tone and subject of your book.

For example, you want to write a memoir because you want to be recognized in the business scene for leading your company as a CEO. This will influence how you write your book, what you write about and to who you’re writing for.

Don’t be intimidated though. You don’t have to be known personality to be qualified to getting your book published. What a publisher will look for is the story, and the way it’s told. So really think about what you have to say.


  1. The Reader

I would say this is always one of the most important factors when writing any book. If you don’t have your reader in mind then you might as well keep your writing in your journal. Think about who you’re writing for, the age group, the gender, the nationality. It doesn’t have to be specific but simply considering gender alone allows you to make small changes in your overall language. But more than that, thinking about your reader allows you to think about the journey they will go on with you, and the way you will show that journey.


  1. The Journey

What is your memoir really about? Narrow it down. ‘It’s about the time I turned my life around and became a Yogi. It was one of the most challenging events of my life. I had to change everything about me, cut so many ties that I felt so lonely at times.’ All of this leads to the overall feel to the memoir. Is it dramatic, motivational, shocking, entertaining? More importantly, let it be real. What’s fantastic about reading memoirs is that feeling of uncovering the hidden events in a person’s life and how a reader can relate.  


  1. And More

People read memoirs because they’re curious about this certain person’s life and the events that transpired. And essentially, we all learn from each other especially when we’re able to see those events laid out in front of us. Nothing happens in our lives without other factors influencing them. So when you’re writing about how you survived an illness, what makes a fuller story is reading about how all your relationships were affected and changed, including the relationship you had with yourself. Think about the stories, the anecdotes. Fill it them up while you follow the rule ‘Show, don’t tell’.


  1. The Fiction

One of the best advice to take when writing a memoir is to borrow from fiction. Look at your characters, your events, your setting. Dress them up and fill them in with as much description and colour. Bring it all to life. It’s still a book and more so, it’s a story, a real one. And with all that, what readers want to see is your own personal development as well. We write memoirs after an event has happened where we can look back from a different lens and tell it like a story. We look at ourselves and see how much we’ve learned and changed because of it. Make sure to add that all in.

And just like a work of fiction, think about the outline and the sequence of events in the story. Is it narrated linearly? Does the backstory show up as a flashback? Do you reveal the end in the beginning? All of these elements make for an even more exciting memoir.


  1. The End

Your memoir is really that chance where your voice is so closely followed throughout the story of your life that the reader is now deeply connected to you. Think about how that relationship ends. What are your parting words to them? What do you want to leave them with? The style or approach is up to you. It can be a cliffhanger, it can be one final anecdote or a quote. In all cases, think about the relationship you built and your responsibility to your reader, your friend.


Check out our list of memoirs here.