Nova A.
Nova A.

How To Write A Memoir - A Beginner's Guide

11 min read

Published on: Aug 29, 2021

Last updated on: Mar 25, 2024

how to write a memoir

So, you want to tell your life story? Writing a memoir can be an incredibly rewarding experience, allowing you to reflect on your past, share your unique experiences, and connect with others on a deeply personal level. 

Whether you're an aspiring memoir writer or simply want to preserve your memories for future generations, this guide will help you start on your memoir-writing journey.

Let’s dive in!

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What is a Memoir

A memoir is a genre of literature that focuses on the author's life, offering intimate reflections on personal experiences. It focuses on emotional resonance and explores the significance of events rather than providing a comprehensive overview.

On the other hand, autobiographies chronicle an author's entire life, from birth to the present or a significant point. They follow a chronological structure and aim to provide a comprehensive record of the author's achievements, relationships, and experiences.

A brief examination of Elizabeth Gilbert's Eat, Pray, Love, and The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin underscores the profound differences between memoirs vs. autobiographies.

Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert chronicles the author's transformative journey of self-discovery across Italy, India, and Indonesia. Gilbert focuses on a specific period of her life following a painful divorce, exploring themes of love, spirituality, and personal fulfillment.


The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin provides a detailed chronicle of Franklin's life, from his humble beginnings to his accomplishments as a statesman, inventor, and founding father of the United States.

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How To Start A Memoir? 

Here is how to begin your memoir on the right foot:

  1. Begin with a captivating moment.
  2. Write the opening last, after exploring your story.
  3. Craft a compelling first paragraph.
  4. Infuse humor or wit early on.
  5. Connect personally with your readers.
  6. Use sensory details to immerse them.
  7. Start with a memorable quote or anecdote.
  8. Pose an intriguing question or statement.
  9. Create anticipation for what's to come.

Steps on How to Write a Memoir 

If you've lived a life full of interesting experiences and want to share them with others, writing a memoir is a great way to do it. 

Here's how to write a memoir for students.

Step 1. Reflect on Your Life and Narrow Your Focus

Before you start writing, take the time to reflect on significant moments, experiences, and themes in your life. Consider what story you want to tell and what message you hope to convey. It's essential to narrow down your focus to specific events or periods that best illustrate your central theme.

In Jeannette Walls' memoir, 

"The Glass Castle," she reflects on her unconventional upbringing in a nomadic family plagued by poverty and instability. Walls vividly recounts her experiences growing up with eccentric parents and the challenges she faced as she struggled to find stability and define her identity.

Step 2. Identify Your Central Theme 

Every memoir has a central theme or message that ties the narrative together. This theme could revolve around personal growth, resilience, overcoming adversity, or self-discovery. 

Identifying your central theme will help guide your storytelling and give your memoir a clear focus.

In Cheryl Strayed's memoir, "Wild,

" the central theme revolves around self-discovery and healing. Through her journey of hiking the Pacific Crest Trail alone, Strayed grapples with grief, loss, and the search for redemption. Her memoir is a testament to the transformative power of nature and the human spirit.

Step 3. Outline Your Story

Creating an outline is an important step in organizing your memoir and shaping its narrative arc. 

Outline the key events, emotions, and characters you want to include, and consider the chronological order or thematic structure that best suits your story.

In "Angela's Ashes,

" Frank McCourt meticulously outlines his childhood experiences growing up in poverty-stricken Limerick, Ireland. His memoir follows a chronological structure, detailing his family's struggles, his own hardships, and moments of resilience amidst despair.

Step 4. Be Honest and Vulnerable

Honesty and vulnerability are essential qualities of a compelling memoir. Share your experiences, thoughts, and emotions authentically, even if they make you feel exposed or uncomfortable. 

Readers appreciate raw honesty and connect more deeply with narratives that ring true.

In "Hunger,

" Roxane Gay fearlessly explores her relationship with food, body image, and trauma. She lays bare her struggles with obesity, self-worth, and the societal pressures that shape her identity. Gay's unflinching honesty invites readers into her innermost struggles and triumphs.

Step 5. Put Your Readers in Your Shoes 

Effective memoirs allow readers to step into the shoes of the author, experiencing their journey firsthand. 

Use vivid sensory details, descriptive language, and introspective reflections to immerse readers in your world and evoke empathy and understanding.

Tara Westover's "Educated", transports readers to her isolated upbringing in a fundamentalist Mormon family in rural Idaho. Through her vivid descriptions and introspective narrative, Westover invites readers to witness her journey of self-discovery, education, and liberation from the constraints of her past.

Step 6. Employ Elements of Fiction

While memoirs are rooted in truth, incorporating elements of fiction can enhance the storytelling experience. Use dialogue, scene-setting, and narrative techniques to bring your memories to life and create a vivid, immersive narrative for your readers.

In "The Color of Water,

"James McBride skillfully weaves together his own narrative with his mother's story, blurring the lines between memoir and biography. Through dialogue and vivid imagery, McBride breathes life into his family history, creating a rich tapestry of shared experiences and cultural identity.

Step 7. Create an Emotional Journey 

A compelling memoir takes readers on an emotional journey, eliciting a range of feelings and reactions along the way. Infuse your narrative with moments of joy, sorrow, humor, and introspection to engage readers on a deeper emotional level.

In Dave Eggers' memoir, 

"A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius," Eggers faces intense emotions after losing his parents and taking care of his younger brother. His deep thoughts and humor make readers feel a range of feelings that stay with them.

Step 8. Showcase Your Personal Growth

A memoir is not just a recollection of past events but also a testament to personal growth and transformation. Reflect on how your experiences have shaped you as an individual and share insights into the lessons learned along the way.

In "The Year of Magical Thinking,

"Joan Didion chronicles her grief and mourning following the sudden death of her husband, John Gregory Dunne. Through her poignant reflections and candid observations, Didion offers readers a glimpse into the complexities of loss, love, and resilience as she navigates the turbulent waters of grief.

H2- Memoir Examples 

Looking for inspiration or guidance on your memoir? Reading examples of well-written memoirs can be a great way to learn how to craft your own.

Check out these examples of powerful and moving memoirs.

  • "Angela's Ashes" by Frank McCourt is a Pulitzer Prize-winning memoir that recounts McCourt's impoverished childhood in Limerick, Ireland, and his family's struggle for survival amidst hardship and loss.
  • "The Motorcycle Diaries" by Ernesto "Che" Guevara documents Guevara's transformative motorcycle journey across South America, offering insights into his political awakening and ideological evolution.
  • "Bossypants" by Tina Fey is a humorous and insightful memoir that offers a behind-the-scenes look at Fey's rise to prominence in comedy, from her early days in improv to her tenure at Saturday Night Live and beyond.
  • "When Breath Becomes Air" by Paul Kalanithi is a profound memoir that chronicles Kalanithi's journey from neurosurgeon to terminal cancer patient. Kalanithi reflects on life, mortality, and the pursuit of meaning in the face of death.
  • "Persepolis" by Marjane Satrapi is a graphic memoir that depicts Satrapi's coming-of-age in Iran during and after the Islamic Revolution. Through stark black-and-white illustrations, Satrapi explores themes of identity, politics, and freedom.
  • "The Diary of a Young Girl" by Anne Frank is a timeless memoir that captures Frank's experiences hiding from the Nazis in Amsterdam during World War II. Frank's diary offers a poignant and intimate glimpse into the life of a young girl grappling with fear, hope, and resilience.
  • "Just Mercy" by Bryan Stevenson is a powerful memoir that chronicles Stevenson's work as a lawyer advocating for marginalized communities and challenging systemic injustice within the criminal justice system.
  • "The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks" by Rebecca Skloot tells the true story of Henrietta Lacks, an African American woman whose cells were taken without her consent and used for groundbreaking medical research. Skloot explores the ethical implications of scientific discovery and the enduring legacy of Lacks' cells, known as HeLa cells.
  • "Girl, Interrupted" by Susanna Kaysen is a memoir that offers a candid and compelling account of Kaysen's experiences as a young woman in a psychiatric hospital in the 1960s. Through her introspective narrative, Kaysen reflects on mental illness, institutionalization, and the search for identity.
  • "Brooklyn: A Memoir" by Colm Toibin is a reflective memoir that explores Toibin's upbringing in 1950s Ireland and his journey to America. Through vivid storytelling and poignant introspection, Toibin captures the complexities of immigration, identity, and belonging.

These memoirs encompass a wide range of experiences and perspectives, offering readers insight into the human condition and the power of storytelling.

How To Write A Memoir Pdf Samples

If you want to learn about some books on how to write a memoir, check out these examples.

In conclusion, writing a memoir can be a challenging but rewarding experience. Following these tips can help you create a memoir that is engaging, authentic, and meaningful. In addition, our AI essay writer can provide you with excellent results!

If you're struggling to write your memoir or any other type of essay, don't hesitate to reach out to our essay writing service.  

Our team of experienced writers can help you craft a high-quality essay that meets your specific needs and requirements. 

With our reliable essay writing service online, you can focus on sharing your unique voice and story with the world.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

What are the 5 parts of a memoir?

The five parts of the memoir are: 

  • Theme 
  • Truth 
  • Voice 
  • POV 
  • Musing 
Nova A.


Nova A. (Literature, Marketing)

As a Digital Content Strategist, Nova Allison has eight years of experience in writing both technical and scientific content. With a focus on developing online content plans that engage audiences, Nova strives to write pieces that are not only informative but captivating as well.

As a Digital Content Strategist, Nova Allison has eight years of experience in writing both technical and scientific content. With a focus on developing online content plans that engage audiences, Nova strives to write pieces that are not only informative but captivating as well.

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