Monday, September 14, 2015

Memoir Writing: How to Start Writing a Life?

Friends tell you, "You should write that story down!" You've had experiences that changed you. You want to share them with your friends, family and strangers.

But how do you start writing your life story? Telling your grandkids a story over the holiday table is a very different experience from sitting alone with a blank pad of paper.

My memoir writing students at Politics and Prose ask me this question every session. (Click through to register today for the next class that starts Nov. 3.) This is how I answer it:

Start by writing one scene. And then the next and the next. But start small with just one scene. You don't have to start in the beginning. Write the moment that moves you the most. You know the moment: the one you are drawn to telling friends over and over. The one you understand the most or the least, but try to understand it better each time you retell it.

Resist the urge to start by explaining the long backstory. Avoid summarizing your life, every person in it and every place you've been. Trust that the scenes you build will be informed by those details and that many, many details can be left out. Your goal is to hone in on one particular story line from a life well-lived and still being lived.


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