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How To Begin Writing Your Memoir

Written by: Dr Lynda Ince-Greenaway, Executive Contributor

Executive Contributors at Brainz Magazine are handpicked and invited to contribute because of their knowledge and valuable insight within their area of expertise.


Writing a Book Means Taking the Bull by the Horns. When I decided that I wanted to write my memoir, it appeared like a herculean task. It was different from writing an essay or a report or even a thesis all of which I had done before, but I had to heal before I could tell the story of my ‘Hard Truth and how I grew out of adversity. Becoming motivated and taking the bull by the horns is what I needed to do. This article describes the first steps I took to tackle writing my memoir.

What's your story? hands holding an open book background message

I began with flip chart paper and lots of colouring pens. Although there was the urge to use the computer, I resisted it initially until I was clear about the focus for my book. Memoirs required considerable reflection and deep thinking. The process of reflection will spark ideas and allow you to see what is most important. This process will eventually help you to make links that might come in handy at a later stage.

Getting rid of the Fear

I first had to overcome the fear that others would not want to read what I had to say, but that was far from the truth, if anything it was quite the opposite. People genuinely wanted to hear about my journey and the lessons they could take away from it. They wanted to be inspired. Fear can paralyse and give a sense of overwhelm. I also had to deal with the emotions I had hidden for many years and find a way to communicate them with others.

Decide on your Strategy

Begin with a mapping exercise which is your GPS system. Your map will take your book from one stage to another and will keep you on track, but it will change over time. Some people like to begin by setting out the contents but my strategy was to think about the topic from different angles and use my journal and flip chart paper to begin identifying related links and connections. The next strategy was to think of a title that would truly express my memoir.

Nothing is New Under the Sun

Start by doing a Google or library search. Researching similar topics to what you want to write about is essential. You will discover that nothing is new under the sun. Published memoirs will give you an indication of how to set out themes and develop a storyline.

Do not allow the fact that others have published on the topic throw you off course. During your research be on the lookout for gaps in the literature that will make your book unique and keep readers hooked. For example, when I decided to write my memoir, I knew that there were many books from different perspectives on death, separation and loss. However, I knew that the trauma I had experienced was a unique and personal story but I felt that it had the potential to be inspirational.

Planning for What is to Come

It is impossible to write a book without planning. During this initial phase think about your audience, and who will be interested in your reading your book. It was Stephen Covey who said: ‘Begin with the end in mind’ Knowing your audience will help you to pitch the topic and save time wasting. Goal setting is also important when you are planning, therefore establish your writing goals from the start and include them on your map. An important goal is to establish themes and a word count for each chapter.

Creativity, and Consistency Leads to Productivity

Create time, space and a place to write and be consistent. Simply by creating time and space you will be telling your brain that you want to create order and that you want to be creative. If you find it difficult to write with noise in the background, it would make no sense to write while your family is watching the television. Creativity does not necessarily come when you are sitting at your computer, it can come in quietness and stillness. It is better to write a little than nothing at all, this means applying a pattern that you will decide to follow regularly. An hour’s quiet time when you are productive is better than two hours when you cannot concentrate.

Change Your Thinking.

Writing a book is like climbing a mountain and the only way to climb it is to make a start. If you are consistent in taking small steps your brain will release creative powers. We can appreciate mountains, but mountains are difficult to climb, therefore, it will mean changing the way you think to get to the top of your mountain. It will mean challenging what has been said to you in the past that is creating a block in your mind.

Don't be afraid to throw out what does not appear to be consistent with your topic unless you can see a link. Many successful writers did it by giving themselves permission to throw out what was unnecessary. Keep a designated folder on your computer where you can file unwanted material. No one writes a perfect first draft, in fact there will be many drafts before your reach a stage where you will feel confident with what you have written.

Seek and Accept Critical Feedback

Do not be afraid to enlist the support of others. Once you have written something, ask someone you trust and respect to read it. There is nothing worse than writing several chapters and discovering that critical feedback could have helped you to clarify your ideas. That light bulb moment is what you are looking for. That is what critical feedback can do. An important part of your journey is finding the people you can tell that you are writing a book and who can give you the support you need. By the way don't forget to show your gratitude after you have received feedback. You will be surprised how kind people are and how they will follow you on your journey.

Believe in Yourself

Most people do not write a book because they think that it is a pipe dream or they believe the stories they have heard all of their lives, namely you cannot do it! Believe in yourself. The day I held my book in my hands was the day I knew that I had conquered my mountain.

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Dr Lynda Ince-Greenaway, Executive Contributor Brainz Magazine

Dr Lynda Ince-Greenaway began her career in 1982 when she qualified as a social worker. After making child-care her specialism, she became a team leader and a manager. She has worked for forty years in the public and private social care sectors making a significant contribution to the development and learning of others. In her role as a manager, she developed leadership skills which she has used to teach and influence others. She became an educationalist working as a lecturer for many years. As a life coach, keynote speaker and author Dr Ince-Greenaway is known for her enthusiasm and passion concerning such issues as leadership, social justice, social inclusion, empowerment, personal development as well as the development of others.



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