Memoir writers often wonder how to get started. Should they just hire a ghostwriter and pay for phone time to start telling their stories and getting them into documents? That is one way to begin, but it’s not the only way. If you are hoping to write a memoir, start the writing yourself so you can begin seeing the themes and lessons that you will want to emphasize in your memoir or book of life lessons. Here are three writing prompts for memoir writers with a life story to tell.
Writing Prompt #1: Write the inspirational story of the moment in your life when you felt the most empowered. Use sensory detail-words that evoke sounds, sensations, visual images, and so on. What did it feel like to be in your body that moment when you spoke your truth? When you walked away from a bad situation? When you felt completely at one with the universe? When you knew you were okay, for the first time in a very long time? When you knew you had achieved success? (This story may end up being at the very beginning of the book.)
Writing Prompt #2: Write a story of being a young child playing. What was the toy you were playing with, and why did you enjoy playing with it? Use sensory detail. What did it feel like to be lying on the rug in your family’s living room, or sitting on the linoleum in your family’s kitchen? What were you imagining? What were you feeling, emotionally? (This exercise can be very effective for drawing out of your unconscious mind a story that tells us something about who you are as an adult, what you value, and what the themes of your story are.)
Writing Prompt #3: Write a funny story that captures your sense of humor. It could be recent or one from your childhood. Make sure that this story reveals your vulnerability, so that the reader relates to you person to person instead of just seeing you as an expert or leader. (This story will be a contrast to the first one you wrote)
After writing these stories, read them aloud. Make any changes to the writing you feel need to be made. Edit these stories as best you can, checking spelling and grammar.
Begin to think about what these stories have in common. What are your strengths, weaknesses, and interests as revealed in these stories? What, if anything, do your stories say to a reader about how you overcame challenges?
All memoirs need a narrative arc: We need to see progress in the story. We need to watch you come of age, learn to run a successful business despite humble beginnings and mistakes along the way, grow into a person who has come to peace with your past and developed wisdom and a sense of clarity and purpose, and so on. Think about how you would sum up your memoir in a sentence. Next, write two descriptive paragraphs that might be found on the back of the book or on the Amazon page for the book. Look at other books for examples.
Once you done some of the writing and started to get a sense of what the central story of your memoir is, think about whether you want to write a memoir, a life lessons book, or a self-help book with takeaway exercises and perhaps even an action plan for developing new habits.
Whether your plan is to publish the book for yourself and your family and friends, or for a larger audience that includes fans of your work as an expert in your field, begin your writing today with these writing prompts for memoir writers. Even if you end up doing a life lessons book or a self-help book, you will be glad you wrote up these stories. Doing so will help you get a better sense of how your personal anecdotes can be incorporated into the book you want to write. A professional developmental editor or ghostwriter can better help you when you have started the writing and conceptualizing of your book.