Writing Your Memoir: Where to Start

Thinking of writing a memoir and you don’t know where to start? You’re not alone. Most people have stories to tell—some inspiring, others tragic, and others entertaining. Each person’s story is unique, and while it might not have the potential for a best-selling book, if you feel moved to tell your story, for whatever reason, you should.

Starting your memoir can be daunting, but with clear tips and strategies, you can lay a strong foundation for your narrative journey. It’s important to pick a starting point that launches your story in a strong way.

Your memoir isn’t just a chronological account of your life; it’s a curated selection of moments that shape your narrative. Therefore, choosing the right starting point is crucial. While some advise starting anywhere, it’s essential to select a specific event or moment that sets the stage for your story’s themes and messages.

Here are some key insights to help you determine where to start writing your memoir:

What’s Your Purpose?

Consider the duration of your memoir and the story you want to tell. Whether your memoir spans a few days or several decades, it should align with your overarching themes and goals.

Understanding your purpose in writing your memoir will help you pinpoint key events that drive your narrative forward. For example, you may choose to begin with a pivotal moment that catalyzes your journey, such as a life-altering decision or a moment of self-discovery.

Exploring Narrative Strategies

There are various ways to approach the beginning of your memoir. You might choose to start with that significant event that foreshadows your story’s trajectory, or you could dive right into the inciting incident that sets your narrative in motion.

Alternatively, you may opt to begin with a snapshot of your previous life before embarking on a transformative journey (And we’re talking about a snapshot, not an entire “photo album” here). Each approach offers a unique entry point into your story, so consider which one best serves your narrative goals.

Some suggest starting at the end of your story. By doing so, you immediately grab your readers’ attention, offering them a glimpse into the resolution before diving into the complexities of your journey. This technique creates curiosity and intrigue, compelling readers to turn pages to uncover how you arrived at that conclusion.

If you struggle with getting started, consider skipping your opening section. It’s likely that as you start writing your past events onto the page, the beginning of your story will come clear. I’ve often helped writers draw from their ending chapter to craft their opening one so the two bookend the memoir. It’s a powerful story structure that drive home theme and brings the story full circle (it’s done in novels as well).

Establish a Rapport with Your Reader Right Away

Establishing a personal rapport with your readers is crucial for cultivating a deeply immersive reading experience. Whether you’re addressing a broad audience or a select group of intimates, think how to write with heart and vulnerability. You’re not writing an academic paper here. Instead, you want to invite readers into an intimate conversation, akin to sharing stories over coffee with close friends.

Clarifying this intent enables you to tailor your narrative voice accordingly, fostering a sense of connection and resonance with your audience. By engaging your reader early on, you’ll have a good chance of keeping them interested to the end.

Get Started!

Embarking on the journey of writing a memoir is a deeply personal and transformative experience. By considering these tips, you can craft a compelling beginning that captivates readers from the outset and takes them along on your unforgettable narrative journey.

Your memoir will be a testament to the richness and complexity of your lived experiences, and by sharing your story with honesty and vulnerability, you invite readers to join you on that journey of self-discovery and connection. So, embrace the blank page with courage and curiosity, knowing that your story has the power to inspire, uplift, and resonate with readers around the world.

Come participate in my upcoming 2-hour online workshop to get started on your memoir!

Bring your story pitch and ideas about where to start, and we’ll discuss them on Zoom! Cost will be only $49 US! This is a participatory, interactive session, small group with limited space! First session will be the week of May 20th.

Ready to dive in: please fill out this short form so I have your info and know what dates/times work best for you to attend. We’ll have fun and you’ll learn a lot!

And if you haven’t purchased my Memoir Workbook, now’s the time. This best seller will help you figure out all the components of your memoir and teach you a lot of important skills (including how to bring in fiction technique to make your story come alive!).

Featured Photo by Eric Ward on Unsplash

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