How to Write a Memoir

Senior woman typing on laptop, notebook beside her

If you thought only celebrities and professional writers were allowed to write memoirs, think again! Everyone has a story to tell – even you. While you may not sell a million copies of your memoir, you can create a priceless gift for yourself and your loved ones. Plus, writing about your life gives you the opportunity to reminisce, organize your ideas, and think about the people and events that shaped your life. Use the handy tips below if you’re wondering how to write a memoir.

How to Write a Memoir

Find a Focus.

A memoir is not an autobiography. You don’t need to cover all of your life, from birth to present day. In fact, you might find that a bit overwhelming. Instead, focus on the anecdotes you want to tell. You may be able to think of several life events that you wish to write about. For example, maybe you want to write about the games you’d play with your friends at recess, failing to make the varsity basketball team, your first trip abroad, your beloved dog Willie, your biggest career accomplishment, and the house you remodeled with your spouse. Or, you might choose to stick to one theme for your memoir. For example, maybe you want to focus on friendships, creative endeavors, or travels.

Set the Scene.

Before you begin writing a scene, take a little time to immerse yourself in your memories. What do you see? What can you hear, smell, taste, and touch? The more vividly you describe a scene, the more vividly the reader will be able to see it in their head. That said, remember that you don’t need to write down everything. Some details may be a little boring and unnecessary. You want to grab the reader’s attention, not bore them with tedious descriptions.

Employ Fiction-Writing Tools.

Just because you’re writing a memoir, that doesn’t mean you need to tell the story like a reporter. Give us the facts, but also don’t be afraid to use some techniques used in fiction. For example, why not throw your reader into the action in the first paragraph? Could you create some suspense by holding back a little information at first? Rather than telling the reader that your neighbor Sue was wonderful, why don’t you show them by describing things she did and said? And why not employ some metaphors and similes to enrich your descriptions?

Write a Little Every Day.

Wondering how to write a memoir is common. Actually finishing that memoir? Decidedly less so. One of the best ways to finish what you start is to develop a habit. Try to write at the same time every day – after your morning coffee, perhaps. Even if you only write one paragraph each day, you’ll be making progress and eventually you’ll reach the end.

Save and Backup Your Work.

Although you could choose to write your memoir by hand, most people will use a computer for convenience. Be sure that you always save your work after writing, and learn how to back up the digital document just in case something should happen. One of the easiest ways to do this is to write in Google Docs. The program automatically saves your work as you make changes, and it’s saved in the Cloud so that you can access it from any device with internet access. To learn how to use Google Docs, check out this guide.


Once you complete your memoir, don’t be afraid to share it with curious family and friends! It may become a beloved piece of family history.

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