How to Start a Memoir…

Writing Wednesday

Typewriter Pink

Wednesday is the day I like to share information, tips and inspiration with writers and bloggers. The kind of information that I wish someone would have shared with me back then.

For those of you participating in NaNoWriMo can you believe we only have one more week to go? I am a little less than ¾ of the way to the finish line. Whether I make the 50,000 word goal or not isn’t concerning me. For me making writing urgent again leaves me feeling like a winner.

NaNoWriMo logo

Starting a Nonfiction Book

Where do you start? With a memoir you do not start at the beginning. The best place to start is with the event that changed the course of your life whether it was in a good way or a bad way.

It is natural to want to tell your story chronologically but with a book you only have three pages, maybe a chapter to hook your reader, to convince them to continue reading. Starting with the day you were born, kindergarten, grade school, middle school and on and on and on will leave a reader bored with the story.


I am working on my third memoir. It still amazes me how much I learned in a few short years. This book was so much easier to start than the previous two.

The focus of your story should be the “main event.” In telling your readers about that main event you want to be sure to answer all what’s, when’s, why’s, where’s and how’s.

There are several techniques for adding back and forward story to your manuscript. One is to use flashbacks. Some writers use a series of memories and others use dialogue with someone who would be familiar with their past, perhaps a relative or an old friend.

Quote A professional writer is

Before writing my first memoir I read dozens of nonfiction books trying to figure out what my style was. It is up to you to find your own style.

The most important thing you can do is to start somewhere. Get that first draft out of your head and onto paper. Once you have the first draft finished you can go back and make revisions.

Happy Writing,


Quote Get ahead Get started

The release date for The Stranger In My Recliner is January 26, 2016! Pre-Release copies are available now:

High Res Stranger In My Recliner

He gently helped her back up onto her feet and then picked up what he thought were her grocery bags. After giving her a quick look over and insuring she had no injuries he insisted on giving her a ride home.

After asking her numerous times for her address and struggling not to get frustrated with her, Sophie finally admitted to him, she had no home to go to and nowhere to stay.

John called me to ask if he could bring a woman home for the night.  Not exactly the thing you expect your husband to call and request.

When Sophie walked through my front door that night I could not believe my eyes. She was a frail, filthy, and hunched over, eighty- year –old woman.

I made her a hot cup of tea and then went upstairs and prepared her a warm bubble bath. I gave her my favorite silk pajamas, clean underwear, a warm fluffy pair of socks and a thick robe.

What possibly could have happened to her, what sin or crime did she commit that left her no choice in the world but to trust complete strangers over family or friends? Imagining what in the world those possible sins and crimes were, scared me to my core.

My husband on the other hand is trusting to a frustrating fault. I admire his compassion and knew in my heart that keeping her safe and warm on that cold, wet night was the right thing to do no matter how she came to be in this situation. I could not help wondering why I had to be the one to do that particular right thing on that particular night.

I just kept saying to myself, no worries, she will only be with us until we can find a good home for her. I believed one of her relatives would show up and claim her. They would knock on our front door and tell us they had been searching for her and they could not thank us enough for taking care of her.

Sophie’s story is one of jealous, vindictive siblings, an abusive husband, and a sexual assault that resulted in a pregnancy, a kidnapping and bitter, unforgiving children. She was attacked by several younger homeless people and an Elvis impersonators girlfriend. She was left out in the cold by a deceiving judge who convinced her to care for his dying wife while he cheated on her and then by a group of lost souls that she devoted her life to serving.

As much as I felt we were getting to know Sophie and it was starting to feel like she was just another one of our ‘crazy’ relatives there was still so much that we didn’t know about her. After more than two-years how was it possible that she was still very much the stranger in our recliner?


11 Responses to “How to Start a Memoir…”

  • What a timely blog post for me. I came for the IWSG post, but discovered this one too on writing memoir. I decided, after writing 3 mysteries, I want to write my memoir. I’ve even done workshops on writing life stories, but those are different from memoirs. You’ve got me geeked up to get going on it. I still have to decide, maybe after I write the end on it, if I want it to be published or just given to my kids. What made you decide to publish yours? Going now to check out your pubbed works on amazon. Best wishes for success with #3!

  • Your life seems to lend itself to memoir! Not everyone has that kind of life, but for sure, you do and I can’t wait to read your latest.

  • I have to say, I’m looking forward to the end of NaNo! I don’t mind the word count, but I could really use a day off.

    Good luck with your third memoir, Doreen. I left a review for your first on Amazon and Goodreads.

  • I really LOVE these tips! This is something I would be interested in doing one day. Thanks.

  • I can’t wait for your new book to come out! And I love that quote about the secret of getting ahead. It’s so true!

  • I love your title. Good luck with your book.

  • I love the title and opening of your memoir The Stranger in My Recliner. It sets up all sorts of possibilities. I just finished reading The Girl On the Train, a popular British who-dunnit and, although it’s fiction, I think it should be required reading by every writer who wants to improve their storytelling and structure.

  • Mary:

    Thank you for always giving me new and interesting information. A friend recently suggested I write my memoir. I will definitely be storing this information away just incase I ever decide.
    Happy Thanksgiving!

  • I admire your dedication to your craft, Doreen. Writing is hard work.
    Kimberly XO

Leave a Reply

advertisement for
Realize Your Writing Dreams by Doreen McGettigan
The Stranger In My Recliner by Doreen McGettigan
Book - Bristol Boyz Stomp by Doreen McGettigan
Enter your Email:
Preview | Powered by FeedBlitz