How to Outline a Memoir: Writing your story with the audience in mind


hello shameless writers I'm Cristen

McTiernan the nonsense free editor here

to give you your weekly dose of writing

wisdom I'm back this month with 100%

more face last month I was traveling

quite a bit so I used the avatar since

hotel rooms aren't terribly attractive

and if I can be honest I didn't really

do my makeup a lot while I was

travelling so the avatar was really more

for your benefit than for mine October

is nonfiction month and we'll be

discussing the five best-selling

nonfiction genres that you as an author

can market specifically we'll be

discussing how you as the author can

perfect them and thus sell more copies

the genres we'll be discussing are

religious and inspirational best-selling

and nonfiction memoirs and biography

number two business and money self-help

and health and fitness this week we're

starting with memoirs though they are

admittedly the number two best-selling

non-fiction genre at least on Amazon

they are the number one genre I receive

as a professional editor over the past

11 years I feel comfortable saying I

have edited at least 1000 memoirs nearly

all of them suffered from the same types

of unforced errors all of which would

have been prevented if the author had

started with a solid outline for their

memoir which is exactly what we'll be

discussing today in addition to the

video I've included a link below for an

outline that you can use while

constructing your memoir even if you're

at the very beginning of your writing

journey the worksheet will assist you as

you organize your memories and decide

exactly what you want your memoir to be

about my first tip for outlining your

memoir is to structure it like fiction

this what started you on your journey

this journey can be emotional or

physical as everyone's life and

everyone's message is different

while conflicts exist in your memoir

both internal and external

what is the all's lost moment not to

mention the climax and the resolution

identifying these crucial plot points

will make constructing your scenes much

easier it can be extremely hard to

choose which elements of your life

in the memoir and which parts don't what

makes a memoir different from a

biography is it's not simply a catalogue

of everything that you've gone through

it's a carefully curated list of life

events that is designed to communicate a

specific message which brings me to my

next point decide on your theme when

someone miss about you per se chances

are they don't know who you are rather

they're picking up your book because of

the theme that you're writing on they

don't want to read about you Jane Doe or

whatever your name is they want to read

about overcoming addiction dealing with

obesity dealing with any kind of a

health crisis they want to know about

climbing out of poverty by starting a

small business generally unless you're a

presidential candidate or former

Secretary of State you're not going to

be selling your memoirs off your name or

picture I apologize for the engine noise

it's Sunday and I have neighbors with

motorcycles though you might not be as

famous as a presidential candidate you

still have the ability to touch the

hearts and minds of readers on an

international scale with your memoir if

you choose your theme carefully and

construct your scene list around that

theme next up make your scene list once

you've decided on your feet so you know

the appropriate plot points to hit you

need to select which scenes of your life

will contribute to this story

this can include backstory which are

events that take place before the

timespan that your memoir takes place

during just keep that to a minimum keep

in mind that all of my admonishment

against info dumps still applies for a

memoir there are many things that

happened in your life all of them in

some way or another contributed to who

you are as a person but not all of them

contribute to the existing theme of your

memoir so be ruthless in your scene

selection don't be afraid it goes for

while you're writing it and of course in

the self editing phase once you have

your scene list put them in order and I

don't necessarily mean chronological

order like all good books you want to

start off with a bang

you want to get your readers attention

and keep them coming back for more

often because memoirs aren't necessarily

as exciting as a car chase this will

involve a prologue often people argue

against prologues which is odd to me I

like them in general for memoirs they're

often necessary you don't want to start

things off slow and get off on the wrong

track with your reader also do your due

diligence as part of your outline put a

star next to anybody's name who appears

in your story that you'll need to get a

release from put a different symbol next

to someone that you will need to obscure

and I don't just mean changing their

name you need to change their height you

need to change their gender if you

possibly can the reason you need to

obscure these people is because you're

going to be writing unflattering things

about them I think you'll find it very

unusual for someone to have an Ashton

Kutcher like Zen regarding unflattering

memoir portrayals libel laws are

different in every country and

especially if you live in Ireland of the

UK be very very careful if you're going

to be writing unflattering things about

someone even if it's all true you might

find yourself getting sued for libel

so disguise them well if you want a

deeper dive into how to create your

memoir specifically how to find the

courage to write your own story give

this video a click and enjoy my full

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it really helps me grow on YouTube next

week we'll be talking about writing

Christian inspirational nonfiction so be

sure to tune in for that until then take

care and write well