Genre Types

The Making of a Memoir Part 1: Where to Start

If I have learned anything from being an editor it is that everyone has a story to share. This great world of ours has given us experiences as varied as our fingerprints, and there is bound to be someone who will benefit from reading yours. Even if you think your life is nothing spectacular—perhaps even mundane—you probably have some nugget of insight somewhere along the way just waiting for you to dust it off and see it for the gem it is.

I’m not going to sugarcoat it: writing about yourself is hard. However, it is also rewarding and incredibly transformative. The first big question after you decide to write about your own life is where to start? To help you answer that question, I have created this series to help you write your draft and get it ready for editing.

There are two main types of books that come from writing about yourself: autobiography and memoir.


  • Based on facts over emotion
  • Discusses your entire life and all of the important events
  • May lack a distinct climax


  • Still factual, but includes emotional descriptions
  • Discusses only one theme of your life or one major event
  • Definitely has a climax and follows a narrative structure
  • Typically includes more creative uses of description, dialogue, and characterization

Memoirs are generally more interesting to read and extend a level of intimacy to the reader. It is true that some memoirs discuss long stretches of the author’s life, including her childhood, but as long as it all works to support the main event or theme, it works.  Autobiographies are all about facts, dates, and chronology. Memoirs are their impassioned cousins full of emotion, suspense, and drama.

Some great examples of memoirs to read for inspiration:

  • Thin Places by Mary E. DeMuth

  • My Best Friend’s Funeral by Roger W. Thompson

  • It Was Me All Along by Andie Mitchell

  • Girl in the Dark by Anna Lyndsey

Keep reading and letting other authors’ stories inspire you. The next post in the series will help you brainstorm what events or circumstances you want to write about as a gift of experience to others. Roll around in your head what wisdom you have incurred over your life along with how you can share it with the world, and come back for how to make it happen.


With experience as an English literature teacher and freelance writer, Elaine brings her knack for revision to the editorial team. She started at the University of Central Florida in 2005, and she holds degrees in English Literature and Language Arts Education with an additional minor in writing. As a parenting blogger, she enjoys writing about her adventures with her toddler daughter and husband as they take advantage of living where the rest of the world vacations.

One comment on “The Making of a Memoir Part 1: Where to Start

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *