Five Tips to Help You Write Your Memoir

Is there a book in your future? Have you been thinking about writing your personal story? Here are some little-known memoir-writing tricks you can use:

Tip One: Figure out who your readers will be.
Sure, like all of us, you want the world-at-large to read your book. You are certain everyone will be entranced by the details of your life. Alas, the publishing world does not agree. Identify your audience by thinking about a particular person who would love to read your book and assume that person is looking over your shoulder whenever you sit down to write. Write directly to that person and your writing will not stray into irrelevant areas. I do hope everyone in the world will want to read your memoir, but even best-sellers are aimed toward a particular audience -- perhaps a young woman, or a retired professional, or a high school student, or a member of the armed forces, a pet-lover, a dad. Who is your ideal reader?

Tip Two: Create memoir space.
Designate a certain day of the week and certain time of day when you will write - maybe every morning at 7 AM, maybe Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays, maybe three times a week at four 'o' clock. Then designate a place -- maybe your laptop at the kitchen table, maybe your ipad in bed, maybe the corner table at Starbucks, maybe the library. If there are times when you cannot think of what to write just sit there and record your thoughts. Stick with your scheduled writing time and eventually an idea will emerge out of your thoughts.

Tip Three: Ignore all rules of grammar.
After your entire book is written you can go back and fix the sentence structure, the spelling, the punctuation, and more. Pausing to do that as you write will slow your memory and may cause frustration. Just write naturally . . . and write . . . and write. Don't worry, don't stress, if you have trouble with language techniques. When you finish your book you can hire an editor to repair written irregularities. Remember, there are plenty of editors out there, but only you can tell your true story.

Tip Four: Geography is important.
The closer you are, physically, to the area in which your story takes place, the more difficult the writing process. Certainly it's a good idea to visit the area you are remembering, but it's not a good idea to stay there and do your writing there. When you write in a place that has plenty of memories for you, your emotions complicate those memories. You will do better by visiting, jotting down all your feelings, all the elicited emotions, and then going elsewhere to do the actual writing. Distance brings clarity. Distance brings perspective. Distance fosters truth.

Tip Five: Shut your eyes.
Whenever you recount an incident close your eyes for at least one minute and picture the scene. Then open your eyes and quickly write everything that was in your visualization. Include the littlest detail. Your reader needs to know all facets, all angles, in order to truly see you there. Then close your eyes again and visualize the scene again, but this time from a different vantage point. What more can you reveal to your reader? Your words should help the reader figure out what season it is and what time of day it is without explicitly stating those facts. Instead, describe weather or clothing or lighting or shadows. The more you describe, without overtly declaring but rather suggesting and hinting, the more engaged the reader becomes. You want an engaged reader. Readers who don't care what ensues next in your life story are readers who will drop your memoir in favor of another. I never want that to happen to your book.

© 2014 Roberta Temes, Ph.D., author of How to Write a Memoir in 30 Days: Step-by-Step Instructions for Creating and Publishing Your Personal Story

Roberta Temes, Ph.D. is an accomplished author, editor and writing instructor, as well as a seasoned psychotherapist and psychology faculty member. She lectures around the country at corporate meetings, medical conferences and health spas. Dr. Temes' newest book, How to Write a Memoir in 30 Days is available now on Amazon and everywhere books are sold. She is also the author of the award-winning Living with an Empty Chair and The Complete Idiot's Guide to Hypnosis.

Temes lives in New Jersey and Florida, with her husband David Lyons, a university financial systems consultant. Temes is a mother and grandmother, too. For more information please visit


  1. Good advice. I also like to keep pen and paper in every part of the house. When thoughts and emotions come flooding I don't want to waste time looking for supplies.
    Also I like writing the old fashioned way. I find my thoughts flow better in cursive.


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