Tips for Writing The Story of Your Life

A memoir is the only way to make sure your story is told exactly the way you want it told when you are no longer around to tell it.

So you want to write a memoir.

You look back over your life and realize it does indeed hold some stories worth remembering, worth telling.

Here are some ideas that will help you on your literary journey.

Some I made up.

Some I stole from other writers.

But the tips helped me when I wrote my memoir, The Man Who Talks to Strangers.

After all, a memoir is the only way to make sure your story is told exactly the way you want it told after you are no longer around to tell it.

  1. Write a compelling concept. Find a different way to write the same old story. Editors want the same thing, but make it different.


  1. Unless they are an integral part of the story, don’t begin with time, the season, or the weather.


  1. Don’t start a story with “It was …” or “It is …” or “When …” or “Before…”


  1. Write a like a memoir like a novel, making use of characters, scenes, dialogue, descriptions, and drama. Don’t preach. Tell a story.


  1. There are three ways to begin your memoir: Use or a hook, tell a story, describe a scene, or make a character worth reading about.


  1. You are the literary photographer. You are the camera. Make sure your readers see the characters and the scenes you see. Let your readers into your heads.


  1. Use all five senses when writing about characters. When writing scenes, remember to write what you see, what you feel, what you smell, what you touch, what you hear.


8. Don’t write your story because you are holding a grudge and want to verbally assassinate someone who may have done you wrong.


  1. Like a novel, enter the story late and leave early. Write a slice of life that tells a particular story, long or short, article or full-length history.


  1. Ask yourself: Why did I tell this story, why did I introduce this character, why did I write this scene, why did I use that quote? If it doesn’t move the book or the story forward, cut it out.


  1. Don’t add a lot of unnecessary facts or a lot of unnecessary details just to prove how smart you are and how much you know. They tend to stop the story dead in its tracks. Remember the old adage: Just tell me the time. Don’t tell me to make the watch.


  1. When writing dialogue, stay with “he said” or “she said.” Don’t use exclamation points or adverbs to prove a point.


  1. Don’t tell. Use dialogue.


  1. Tell your story in a distinctive voice. Use your voice. Tell your story as if you were sitting across the table from your reader.

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  • Jackie Taylor Zortman

    Another good lesson, though I’m not inclined to write a memoir personally. Not having a lot of time to read at all this summer, I’m about 3/4 of the way through your memoir and am enjoying the peek inside your life.

    • Caleb Pirtle

      Thanks, Jackie. We all need to leave behind the obituary no one else would dare write. I’m still looking forward to your new book. Let me know the second it’s released. I’m ready to see your name and your talent in print again.

      • Jackie Taylor Zortman

        Still waiting to hear from the publisher who is doing second editions of my first two books. “Snow Angel” is a sequel to “Footprints in the Frost” and I am told (by another publisher who wants it) that A & K has the first right of refusal since the same characters are in both books. But you’ll be the first to know if and when it’s released.

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