You CAN Write a Book!
You've always wanted to write a book about your life. You've been through heartache and pain. Horrific tragedy and the greatest joy imaginable. You survived. Now it's time to share your story with the world.
You don't have to be a writer to write a memoir. You already know the story of your life. This template will help you plot and write it. By the time you're done, you will have a book ready for publication.
MEMOIR PLOT SAMPLE
Plotting Your Memoir
The underlying theme of every memoir: “This happened to me. It could happen to you. But, you’re not alone. You will survive your trials and come out stronger.”
You must make readers see how your life has parallels to their lives. Maybe they didn’t battle breast cancer, but they were laid off from their job. It’s a different level of fear, pain, and loss, but there are parallels. When you’re writing your memoir, ask yourself – How can other people relate to my experience? If you can make a universal connection to a shared emotion, then your book has a much greater chance of being successful.
Four Steps for Writing Your Memoir
- Choose a universal theme.
- Select specific stories from your life.
- Outline your stories.
- Write your book using a chapter by chapter breakdown.
Step #1: Choose a Universal Theme
This is just a sample of possible themes. You can get creative with your theme, but it will anchor the entire book, so choose one to be your primary theme. The more clarity you have with your theme choice, the easier it will be to write your story.
- Fear of being alone
- Fear of being abandoned
- Losing someone you love
- Beating the odds
- Coming of age
- Getting older
- Fear of failure
- Family obligations
- Change is painful
- The road not taken
- Parent/Child relationships
Your Theme: FILL THIS IN
Step #2: Select Specific Stories from Your Life
The most important part of telling your story is telling the truth. Not necessarily exactly what happened, but the truth about how it made you feel.
Important Note About Privacy
Some people may have been terribly abusive to you. They may have wronged you in some way. You want to tear them apart in your book. That’s okay as long as you protect their identity. You could be sued, even if you are telling the truth. To avoid that possibility, change the person’s name, the type of incident, and maybe even their relationship to you.
Example: Your father molested you from the time you were seven until you ran away from home at sixteen. Change it to become a neighbor. Change your age. Change the gender of the person involved. I know that it feels like you’re not telling the full truth when you do this, but you’re still sharing your story and the emotional truth behind it. You’re still conveying a sense of utter betrayal and disgust. You can still talk about how it affected your relationships with other people, with your body, and with yourself. You can talk about how trust issues stemming from the abuse affect you to this day. It’s still the truth, but you will be protected from a lawsuit. Writing this memoir isn’t about revenge, it’s about sharing your story so that it will help someone else.
Start by brainstorming the most important, pivotal experiences of your life. List them.
- First person in my family to graduate from college.
- Lost my first child in a car accident
- Changed jobs
- Risked my life rescuing people during a hurricane
- Gave my kidney to a friend
- Survived being lost in the desert
- Got married
- Got divorced
- Unexpected pregnancy
- Got patent approval on my invention
- Survived my spouse’s gambling addiction
Choose five stories that have the strongest connection to your theme.
Story #1: FILL IN
Story #2: FILL IN
Story #3: FILL IN
Story #4: FILL IN
Story #5: FILL IN
Step # 3: Outline Your Stories
Bleed on the page! Don’t hide the truth. This part might be painful. There may be things you don’t want to admit. Or you might have to relive tragedy. Just remember: Everything that happened to you is in the past. You survived! Now it’s up to you to tell your story.
Break each story down into five parts....
After you get through the breakdown section, you will get to Step #4...
Step #4: Write your Book using the Chapter by Chapter Breakdown
Write one chapter at a time. You have your entire story plotted out already, this section will show you how to write the book, chapter by chapter.
As you’re writing, try to include other relevant details. E.g. You climbed Mt. Everest. Talk about the history of climbing and how it influenced you while you were on the mountain. Make the story bigger and more universal by adding related details.
Your book should be written in first person past tense.
Your first sentence is the most important sentence in your book. Start with a powerful image. For example, say you’re writing about surviving your spouse’s gambling addiction. You might start with something like:
I dreaded the sound of the stock market’s closing bell because it meant another beating.
Take your “goal” from Story #1. Expand on it with specific information. Continuing with the spouse’s gambling addiction example, you might tell the story about how wonderful everything was when you first got married. Then talk about the early warning signs. How did you react to them? Did you tell anyone else? Did you talk to your spouse about it? Did you think everything was going to be okay? Or did your husband’s quirks remind you of your alcoholic father? End the chapter by alluding to the major source of conflict. For example:
I dreaded the sound of the stock market’s closing bell because it meant another beating. He liked to have a drink first. Vodka cranberry. Disgusting. I still can’t stand the taste. But our marriage didn’t start at the bottom of the bottle, it started like a fairytale.
The day I met him, I was sitting at a French café. Powdered sugar from a well-dusted beignet decorated my black suit. Crisp spring air carried the scent of cherry blossoms from the park across the street. Someone bumped the back of my chair. I turned to find a tall, handsome man apologizing profusely. I offered him a seat…
At the end of the chapter. Allude to the conflict from Story #1. Leave the chapter on a cliffhanger. Make your readers want to keep turning the page.
EVERY Chapter is included with an example. By the time you finish working through this template, your memoir will be complete.