Here’s a foolproof 10-step organizational plan for writing your memoirs and life stories. Just follow the steps and they will guide you through the process of starting, developing and completing your personal stories. There’s nothing like true stories to bring your family’s genealogy to life!
Creating a Life Map
To start, make a list of the personal memories or memory fragments that you can recall from your youth. Next to each memory, write your age at the time of the occasion and then organize the list by age. This list will become your Life Map and your invaluable working tool for writing your memoirs.
Choosing a “Burning” Memory
From your Life Map, choose the memory that brings out your strongest emotional response and begin to write. Ask yourself the following questions: Where did this memory occur? Was there anyone in the memory with me? Who? When? What could I see, hear, smell, taste? The most important question to ask is: Why does this memory evoke such strong feelings for me? What does it say about my family history?
Without editing or questioning your work, simply write the words of your story—with feelings and all you can remember about the memory. Then take a short break before going back to read what you’ve written. (I have found that taking a break from my writing gives me new vigor toward fleshing out my story. I have also often been surprised to learn that, when I went back to the story, I could remember more about the event!) After completing any desired changes or additions, read the story out loud to find any missing words or errors. Now you are ready to share the story with someone else, hear his or her response and decide if you want to make further revisions.
10 Simple Steps:
- List memories
- Organize by age
- Ask: where, who, when
- Ask what you see, hear, smell, taste
- Define emotional response
- Write draft
- Make additions
- Read aloud
Sharing with Family Members
Since your stories will be written as an accompaniment to your family’s history, you may want to take this opportunity to ask family members what their memories are of the selected event. Not infrequently siblings, in particular, seem to experience the same event in different ways. The discussions that this sharing of memories generates may bring up some important facts about your family. What a perfect opportunity to learn more about your family and about yourself and your placement in the family genealogy!
This article was written by guest author Coralie Johnson. Coralie is the award winning author of two books, The Wishing Years and A Tree Grows in Trout Creek. The books are collections of stories about growing up in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. Other works by the author have appeared in various publications: Detroit News, Peninsula People Magazine, Porcupine Press, Above the Bridge Magazine, McCall’s, Woman’s Day, Family Circle, Decorating and Crafts, American Legion Auxiliary, Love and Money Needlecrafters’ Magazine, and Workbasket.