If your memoir will cover several years, simplify the planning by breaking it down into one year chunks. Set the scene by noting the challenges and successes, transitions, and important people in your life, as well as the significant world events, during each time period.
m Visualize each event
Before you start writing a scene or event, picture it in your mind. “Watch” it a few times, and feel it – include the emotional and sensory factors to make the scene come to life.
For example: “When I was little, Christmas eves at our house were purely feasts for the senses – the fragrant Christmas tree and the grown ups’ boozy Old Fashions – the taste of Mom’s butter-almond Spritz – she sparkle of tree lights, the fireplace – the glitter on the wrapped presents – the snuggly comfort of my grandmother’s lap.”
m Background Information: Include brief mention of pertinent background information, i.e., early life family events and difficulties – economic, emotional and physical, jarring changes, births and deaths, and other life-shaping situations.
For example: “No wonder my parents and I had such drastically different views about money. They were both depression kids, and I grew up in the financially secure ‘60s.”
m Dialogue: Include dialogue, being true to the special voice of each person. If a policeman, nursery school teacher, and account each experienced “a close one,” they would describe “it” very differently. Be true to the person about whom you are writing, but avoid using stereotypes. Maybe that accountant spends dozens of hours a month as a Big Sister or visiting the severely disabled.
m Repeating Words: Be judicious in repeating a word or phrase over and over and over and over. That kind of writing makes for boring pages. If you’re writing about a car, don’t use that word in every paragraph. Search for effective substitutes, such as the Camry, the family wagon, your wheels, or Betsy! Look for alternatives.Repetition in dialogue also dilutes the richness of a passage. There’s a line between reinforcing a verbal mannerism of one of the characters and belaboring the point. Grandma may have said “y’all” a lot. But the reader doesn’t want to read it in every sentence – they get the point.
m Flashbacks: Scenes sometimes move along more effectively if you use a brief flashback, rather than including a long description that interrupts the pace of the story.
For example: When you write about your childhood growing up in an alcoholic family, you’ve probably already established some of the negative emotions that that linger. If one of those, like lack of self worth, pops up later in your life, all you need to say is a brief “considering my childhood” or something similar.
m Hook: Start each scene or chapter with a hook – a hint at the primary battle, challenge, or unexpected outcome. But don’t leave your reader hanging. Include the basic who, what, where, when, and possibly how at the chapter beginning, shortly after your hook.
m Conclusions and transitions: Some effective closings include a question, an “Aha!” sentence, a door finally closing or opening, or a specific lesson learned. For an highly effective ending, tie the conclusion in with the introductory sentence at the beginning of the chapter or scene.
m Endings: Don’t let your scene dribble away. Provide your reader with a specific, satisfying conclusion, then stop! Your snappy conclusion looses all of its punch if you keep blathering on.
For example: At the end of a story about a mistake you made, the results, and how you dealt with it, you might end with a simple “Lesson learned”!
Resist the urge to write or on the other hand, still if I’d thought more, or but if you asked the other.
m Lead In: Although each story and anecdote may shine on its own, the end of one section or chapter can lead the reader to the next with … which reminds me of another adventure …