Memoir Writing: Author Expectations


If you are writing a memoir, you need to examine the presumptions you have of yourself and others.  You must ask and answer this question: why do you want to write a memoir?

Bad Intentions

Memoir as a vehicle for revenge will backfire on you because your expectations will take over control of your story. The details you include, the overall tone of your narrative voice, and the descriptive words you use will betray your intentions to your reader, who will stop reading (and probably ask for a refund).

Greed is another misplaced motive, especially if you’ve met famous people during your life. Writing a memoir will not make you rich. Thinking so is another expectation of future attention that is more important than the story. Your reader will know this.

The contents of your life will add to the story, not “make” the story.

Good Intentions

Perhaps you mean well and think you can write a self-help memoir. Writing a memoir to save the world does not work because preordained inspiration of others is not guaranteed. You cannot presume to know what information someone else needs in order to make decisions about their life. Focus on your own meaning, yours alone.

Or you may intend to overtly promote social justice and in that way help others. This is another expectation of future results that will affect your writing because your personal meanings are not necessarily someone else’s.

If you want to write a memoir to “set the record straight,” ask yourself first if you’re looking for revenge. If not, perhaps what you really need to write is an autobiography.

Real Intentions

Readers will not read your memoir to satisfy your private expectations for a certain response, whether that expectation comes from a “good heart” or otherwise. What will get them to read is a good story.

The reason to write a memoir is to tell a story.

What Readers Want

In addition to a good story, memoir readers want inspiration. What makes a memoir inspiring is up to the individual reader, however, and not decided on by an author in advance.

Your Job

Choose, and then examine, memories;
Discover the real story you want to tell;
Take hold of that story with confidence;
Choose the right voice in which to tell it.

Excerpted from a work-in-progress by Lela Michael
Image “Beach_0061” by RoganJosh via morgueFile

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