Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Your memoir: one little step at a time

Welcome to newcomers here and on Facebook:
Karin, Betsy, Wayne, and Bella.

I hope you’re currently writing rough drafts of short God-stories your kids and grandkids need to know.

Later we’ll tackle writing techniques, revising, editing, and polishing, but for now, give yourself freedom to accumulate story ideas and write and write and write your rough draftsand enjoy yourself! 

Please be underwhelmed at the task of writing a book. In fact, avoid thinking “book.” Instead, concentrate on individual short stories.

For the next several months, take easy little steps: I suggest you review the definition of memoir (see below) and write a few accounts, three to six pages each. That’s do-able, right?! These rough drafts will eventually be chapters in your finished memoir.

Start with easy topics. Remember: You’ll learn the craft of memoir more easily if you begin with straightforward events.

I’ve seen too many beginners tackle a traumatic story, only to have their still-raw emotions sidetrack them. Inevitably, discouragement leads them to abandon that story and give up on writing their other stories, too. Don’t let that happen to you!

Instead, start with less painful events—how God helped you find a job, for example, or brought your best friend into your life, or helped you make an important decision.

Have fun and get creative. Here’s a story idea: Using a hymn or song, write one or more vignettes by connecting key phrases and stanzas to your personal story. For example, you could frame several vignettes around the dear old hymn, How Great Thou Art (lyrics by Carl Boberg).

Let’s look at the first few lines: “O Lord my God, when I in awesome wonder consider all The works Thy Hand hath made, I see the stars….” Write a vignette about a time you sensed God’s presence while gazing into the night sky. Maybe you were camping in the Rockies, or fighting on a dusty battlefield in Afghanistan, or flying in a jet toward a strange city for a job interview.

Here’s an excerpt from Lori Loomis’s memories of camping in Africa:

There's NOTHING like lying in the warm sleeping bag
in a safe tent under a canopy of a zillion stars--
and listening to the animal sounds.
At first, the different animal noises made me jittery
because I was unsure of just what they were.
But like old friends, you learn to recognize their voices.  

That could lead to a God-and-Lori-and-the-stars vignette. Perhaps you, too, can write a God-and-you-and-the-stars story.

Take the next lines:  “I hear the mighty thunder, Thy pow'r throughout the universe displayed....” What God-and-you-and-thunder experiences come to your mind?

One of these days I’m going to write a vignette about this beloved old hymn, and I’ll explain why I can’t sing it without choking up.

I’ll write what I picture will happen after I die and come face to face with my Creator. I envision that scene every time I sing: “Then I shall bow in humble adoration and there proclaim, ‘My God, how great Thou art!’” What about you?

Yesterday my friend Esther blogged about this hymn and the special role it played in her life.  She even included old family photos. It's a fun read. Click on this link for Esther's How Great Thou Art. (Since links don't work on my new blog, you'll have to copy and paste this URL:

In Know any good songs? Linda Austin suggests:

Think way back to when you were little—
what children’s songs do you remember?
I have a 45 rpm record, made in a little booth
similar to those photo booths in the malls,
that carries me and my sister’s scratchy voices singing
"I’m a Little Acorn Brown"
and a Japanese children’s song, "Ame Ame," about rain.
Our mother taught us just a few Japanese songs
which my sister and I now treasure....
If you’re writing stories of your childhood,
think about including a few songs, ditties,
 jump rope sing-songs—a little bit of music history.

What song comes to mind when you think about falling in love? Falling out of love?

What songs helped shape your roles as spouse, parent, and friend?

What songs helped solidify your faith? Dared you to take a wild-eyed, screaming, sobbing leap of faith?

Have these suggestions given you ideas for stories you need to tell? I hope so! Jot down a line or two now, as a reminder, and some day soon—next week, next month—craft another chapter for your memoir.

Several of you tell me you’re finding surprises of joy in writing your stories, and I pray that will be true for all of you!

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Related post: What is a memoir?


  1. Hey, friends, even though embedding links does not work on this blog, I just discovered that you don't need to copy and paste those links to other blogs! Just click on the link and it will take you there.


  2. Thanks for the encouragement. I was working on a tough section of my writing tonight and left it feeling down.

  3. Patricia, thank you for stopping by. I just clicked over to your blog and once there, I HAD to sign up to receive your posts by e-mail! Your list of recommended books is a real treasure.

    For those of you reading this, please click on Patricia's name, in her comment above, and check out her blog and her wealth of resources.

    Patricia, I understand how hard it is to write about certain things. I have been trying for several years to write about something traumatic but it's so hard. I just get stuck. For now, I'm concentrating on easier topics. They, too, are important stories my family needs to hear. God bless you as you journey down this road God has brought you down. He goes with you, each step of the way.