The 5 Top Tips For Turning Memories Into A Book

The 5 Top Tips For Turning Memories Into A Book

Writers Write is your one-stop writing resource. In this post, we share the 5 top tips for turning memories into a book.

You need to do three important things before you write your memoir.

  1. You need to jog your memory.
  2. You need to find a theme for your story.
  3. You need to plot your memoir.

In this post, I want to deal with the first point. I want to make suggestions on how you can do some research for your memoir. This is not the creative part of the process. (Read my post on The Top 12 Quotes On Writing Memoirs for inspiration.)

This is hard work and takes time but once you’ve done it, you will have an invaluable resource. I want you to think about how you can jog your memories and collect data so that you can stay as true to your story as possible.

Five Ways to Organise your Memories

1. Become a gatherer. You should start with personal bits and pieces. Remember that these are only aids. Your memories are still there and you can access them with or without the help of these. These are the types of things to look for and keep:

  1. Diaries
  2. Obituaries
  3. Birth, marriage, death certificates
  4. Birthday and wedding invitations
  5. Letters
  6. Photographs
  7. Home movies, videos, and DVDs
  8. Report cards, school books
  9. Family memorabilia
  10. Jewellery
  11. Menus
  12. Music – vinyl, tape, digital
  13. Newspaper cuttings
  14. Old cheques
  15. Old programmes
  16. Payslips
  17. Wills

2. Make use of living relatives and old friends. Start a conversation about your memoir. Remember that neither you nor your relative or friend is ‘right’ or ‘wrong’. You each have your own story to tell. Listen. You will need other voices in your memoir. You will specifically need voices that oppose yours. Make notes.

3. Ground your story using details from the time you’re describing. If you don’t do this you run the risk of spending too much time meandering through your thoughts and feelings. Visit the places you will be describing. If you are unable to go back, there are other ways to do this. You can:

  • Watch movies from that era.
  • Read newspapers from the years that you will be writing about.
  • Google dates, places and incidents.

4. Prepare a Life List. This is for you and you alone. This is not for a publisher’s consumption. Write a page on each of these subjects. Some may not even be applicable to you. This list will become the skeleton from which you draw material for your memoir.

  1. Birth and baby years
  2. Pre-school years
  3. Junior school
  4. High school
  5. University
  6. Friends
  7. Hobbies
  8. Holidays, festivals
  9. Jobs
  10. Illness
  11. Early relationships
  12. Religion
  13. Early marriage
  14. Moving House
  15. Middle years
  16. Bereavement
  17. Later years
  18. Retirement

5. Make files. Organise these by using a lever arch file with plastic pockets for memorabilia. Do this in chronological sequence. Slot your notes and writing between these. Now fill the plastic folders with whatever is relevant to these life stages. You should have achieved some sort of order and you’ll be grateful for this as you progress through your book.

by Amanda Patterson
© Amanda Patterson

If you’re looking for more posts on memoirs, try these:

  1. What’s The Difference Between An Autobiography And A Memoir?
  2. The Truth About Memoirs – Is Yours A Brave Confession Or A Book Of Lies?
  3. Mary Karr’s Memoir Checklist To Stave Off Dread
  4. Why You Need To Write Your Memoir Like Fiction
  5. 5 Essential Tips For Writing A Memoir
Posted on: 23rd November 2013

0 thoughts on “The 5 Top Tips For Turning Memories Into A Book”

  1. I am surely seeking an outlet for my writing. Many of my most recent attempts have led to disastrous dead ends.

  2. I use a program(me) called Personal Historian. It asks all these questions and more, with subsidiary memory-ticklers in each, interspersed with news timelines. Each of these that apply to you can generate a separate, personal document, and you can compile all or some of these into a larger document or even a book. I’m a genealogist, not a memoirist, but it turns out that I’m compiling a memoir, bit by bit, as things come to mind.

  3. This is an excellent article. In the last four years plus I have been writing a collection of memories through my life and of stories obtained by my parents, grandparents and others in the family. I am close to having about 1500 0pages of notes. Thank you for sharing this list. I am about ready to organize my book as I write.

  4. The timing of this article could not have come at a better time! A small incident recently made me think of writing a memoir in addition to my other writing.