Only Child tackles starting the memoir

Only Child at 13 and Dad on veranda of house where she grew up

When I first started writing my memoir I had a very different take on what I wanted to include. I wanted it to be more family history – mainly the dead relatives and my relationship with them – when they were alive. I’m not that weird. Some family flak, as well as some constructive criticism from another writer, steered me in another direction. My memoir is now my story of growing up a shy only child of elderly parents in the 1950s and 1960s when Dad is dying of cancer and the environment is old-school Catholic.

When you find your memoir muse, writing the actual memoir can seem daunting. Where do you start? Where do you go?

In my last post https://onlychildwrites.wordpress.com/2012/04/03/only-child-on-finding-your-memoir-muse-2/ I talked about using the kaleidoscope method to narrow down what the heck you want to write about. When you decide if it is overcoming your drug addiction, your crazy childhood or your travels through the Yukon, that’s the branch of your kaleidoscope you use to create an outline.

But before you do that, you want to write down your memoir’s focus or mission statement. As I did above, try to get it down to one sentence, two sentences maximum. This will help you create your outline.

“Create” and “Outline” seem worlds apart. But if you just write “from the seat of your pants” your memoir will be all over the place. Just remember that whatever you put in this outline may not be what you end up with. Keep an open mind for change because as you write your memoir, things will change – perhaps your perspective, perhaps due to family flak, perhaps boredom on your part. Consider your outline a “work-in-progress.”

Then…

  • Do it as a chapter-by-chapter setup or as subject matter you wish to cover. This is just to get you started – to move you from mission statement to content.
  • Under each “subject” listed, write a few sentences or list (whichever works best for you) what you could cover there.
  • If you need to dig further for information, make a note in brackets (further info needed).

That’s it in a nutshell. And, once you write your beginning chapter, you don’t need to write the chapters in the order listed. Perhaps you are missing some research for Chapter Two or the content of Chapter Five is calling your muse.  Follow it. That’s being creative. Remember, you still have your outline to steer you in…later.

Happy memoir writing.

Cheers.

Sharon Crawford

Only Child Writes.

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Filed under 1950s, 1960s, cancer, Catholicism in the 1950s, Elderly parents, Memoir writing, Only child memoir, Organizing Memoir, Sharon Crawford

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