Thursday, October 23, 2014

Do you know where you’re going with your memoir?

Do you know how your memoir will end?

Throughout the writing of your story, build toward your ending.

As a memoirist, you record more than the details of what happened.  You excavate a story deeper and higher and wider than the immediate story. You uncover a story larger than the story on the surface.

You dig it out—in pieces if you must—but you dig it out.

You build toward the end—where you hold in your hand the treasure you unearthed.

That means that while you write your rough draft, you need at least a vague idea of what that treasure is so you can aim for your ending.

If you can’t figure out what your higher, wider, deeper, larger story is, if you can’t grasp the specifics of the treasure you’re mining, take a couple of minutes to read Dig it out, in pieces if you must.

Give yourself time to ponder and pray about what God has for you within your story. Over time, you can dig through the layers and find that treasure.

Later, when it comes time to craft and polish your ending, refuse to write something anemic and trite with the message that “Everyone lived happily ever after.”

Instead, write a compelling, satisfying end, an end that shows how far you came, how you rose above obstacles, and how you changed.

Write your memoir’s ending in a way that gives readers hope, courage, faith, tenacity, and inspiration for living.  

In one way or another say, “This is the most important lesson I want to leave with you.”

In your finale, take stock of life lessons you learned.

Sum up principles you’ve learned.

Notice how Henri Nouwen summarizes sweeping, vast concepts:

"In the life of a God-centered person, sorrow and joy can exist together. That isn't easy to understand, but when we think about some of our deepest life experiences. . .great sorrow and joy are often seen to be parts of the same experience."

And this from Nouwen:

"Often we discover the joy in the midst of the sorrow. I remember the most painful times in my life as times in which I became aware of a spiritual reality much larger than myself, a reality that allowed me to live the pain with hope. I dare even to say: 'My grief was the place where I found my joy.'"

Use your memoir’s ending to clarify your message for readers:

What do you want them to feel 
when they finish your memoir?

How do you want them to think 
as a result of reading your memoir?

What do you want them to do—
how do you want them to live—
because they read your memoir?

Write your memoir 
not because of who you are, not because you’re so great, 
but because of who God is.


  1. I love how you have made the memoir into something so much more meaningful and interesting than a daily diary. This is great advice!

    1. Oooh, yes, Lia! Memoir is so much more than a daily diary!!! The two are altogether different. Both are important, but a diary is private while a memoir is meant to enrich other people, the readers. And in the process of writing, especially if it has a spiritual component, the writer is blessed beyond one's wildest dreams in the discoveries that come with the writing process. I hope you are writing a memoir, Lia. :)