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Writing Your Memoirs

It's important to record our lives on paper. Family trees are researched and genealogies documented increasingly these days. How many of us can even remember the name of our great grandparents? These important people were the foundation of our immediate family today and can be lost in the passing of each generation. They're not just a vague recollection; they too experienced love and laughter, tears and sadness. Their lives were full of drama and excitement. They deserve to be remembered. Do you want your name and your experiences to be completely forgotten in a hundred years?

Do something about it now!
It's the colour and fabric of our lives that create the people we are, not the sequential order to which we are born. Without our stories, our relatives, names, and identities become forgotten.

Writing your memoirs can be a rewarding and meaningful experience. You never know what family secrets you may unearth with all your digging. But most importantly, it's fun.

There are essentially two purposes for writing your memoirs: publishing it to a public forum or as a keepsake for the family. This is your choice. Others may not share the excitement and wonder that you feel about your own life or the lives of your family. However, what may have started out with the intention of being a bound book on the family's bookshelf may actually hold powerful historic value with larger-than-life characters. Avid readers from all over may welcome it, but a second opinion is vital before you make plans to self-publish with a large print-run.

Just write it
Donít worry so much about the end product and what you're going to do with it. Write to capture the story and relate it to those that might read it. Allow your memories, facts and thoughts to flow first then turn your thoughts to editing later. It's highly recommended that you seek a professional editor to assist you in producing your work. You've put so much effort and time into it; don't ruin it in the final stages.

Research, research, research
Interview family members, especially older ones. Look up genealogy trees, birth certificates, death certificates, school records, journals, yearbooks, military records and passports. There are surprises in every family and quite often names were changed, middle names used instead or the spelling of surnames altered. There are family tales due to war, depression, sickness, etc. Memories can become slanted over time, so keep this in mind when interviewing people. Always ensure your facts are correct.

More Important Points
Here are some more important points to help guide you:
  • Don't be afraid to write in the first person. The story is about your life and you are telling it. However, nothing is stopping you from writing in the third person if that's your choice. Remember, it's your book.

  • Keep wording simple. Use language everyone can understand.

  • Type names into search engines, such as Google, and see what you find.

  • Take notes. Lives are chronologically set. That doesnít mean you have to begin at the beginning. Dive into the middle and work your way out. However, it helps to have index cards with the correct order of events on them for easy referencing. Alternatively, you can use software that can structure your thoughts and events, such as Writer's Helper.

  • Add extra things to make it unique. A book of memoirs filled with photos of schools, towns, people and places adds interest. Life is different now and people are interested in what life used to be like especially if they are related to them.

  • Inject humour, anecdotes, quotes and sayings. Include family recipes and handy hints known to your family. These are the threads that sew your familyís patchwork quilt together.

  • Don't use your memoirs as a means for retribution. Show meaning and depth. There should be a purpose that helps others achieve similar goals, such as making money, surviving against the odds or how to be a better person/parent/sibling.

  • Use websites with researchable databases, such as and These offer valuable information. You may even find a distant relative in another country where you can share information.

  • Allow other family members to know about it. Or give them the opportunity to get a copy for themselves. Email a copy to family members, so they can add to it, before finalising it. Valuable information can be gathered this way and help to complete your work before final publishing.
Writing your memoirs is an heirloom for future generations. Memoirs contain captured moments in time, punctuated with facts and anecdotes that tell a story. What does your story say?

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