Many people may consider writing a memoir during their retirement, with much more free time to dedicate to the project.

Perhaps you want to reflect on your life, including all the adventures, experiences and lessons learnt along the way.

Maybe you want to share the account with your children and grandchildren for posterity.

Or you possibly might have an extended readership in mind, promoting your story to a wider audience through self-publishing, for example.

This article will explain what a memoir is and the reasons you may want to write one, providing essential advice for any budding author.

What is the Difference between Biography, Autobiography and Memoir?

A biography is the full life history of an individual, written by someone other than the subject.

An autobiography is the full life history of an individual, written by the subject.

A memoir is written by the subject but emotion is more important than chronological facts. It is more intimate than an autobiography and is likely to focus on lessons learned or a particular section of the subject’s life. Famous examples of memoir include Angela’s Ashes by Frank McCourt which focuses on Frank’s impoverished childhood and Call the Midwife by Jennifer Worth which describes the experiences of a young midwife in the 1950s.

Why Write One?

There are several reasons to write a memoir:

How to Structure and Organise Your Memoir

How to Trigger the Memories

Detail brings a story alive but the little things can be hard to remember. Here are some tricks to start the memories flowing:

Find the Discipline to Keep Writing

A memoir can be as long or as short as you want it to be but the more you intend to write, the more discipline you will need to keep going. Try the following:

How to Publish Your Memoir

If you’ve written your memoir as a family heirloom then it might be sufficient to get a dozen copies made at your local print shop for distribution to children and grandchildren. If you’ve been writing as therapy or in order to sort out the past in your own mind, then printing a single copy or simply keeping the manuscript in your notebook or on the computer may be enough.

However, if you feel that your memoir has broader appeal then you might want to try approaching a literary agent. An agent usually requires the first three chapters of the book plus a synopsis and bona fide agents will not ask for any payment upfront.

Another alternative is self-publishing. Information about self-publishing and a list of reputable companies can be found on the Alliance of Independent Authors website.

Last Words

Writing a memoir can be a creative, addictive and satisfying pastime.

It produces something tangible that can be handed to the next generation and kept for posterity plus it often helps us make sense of our past experiences.

Why not have a go?

Author: Sally Jenkins - freelance writer and speaker.

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