Writing and self-publishing your memoir can be both challenging and rewarding. Here are a few tips to get you started.
Easy, right? Well, of course it isn’t, but you have to start somewhere. One thing you will want to do is to gather some of the memoirs that you have enjoyed reading over the years and make some notes. The first thing you will want to notice is how the narrative begins. Chances are, it is not necessarily at the beginning of the author’s life. Why? Well, there are a few reasons for this, chief among them being that beginning a story at the beginning of a life is a bit of a cliche. There are, of course, other reasons, such as you may be intending for your memoir to be centered around a certain time in your life, such as one remarkable summer. There is no cut and dried, hard and fast rule, but you should strive to start your story en medias res or ‘in the middle of things” in a way that grabs your reader’s attention. You can then proceed to work outward and inward from there.
Of course, before you consider how you will begin your book, you should get as much material on the page as possible. Start by timing yourself for fifteen or twenty minutes a day and just scribble down everything that comes to your mind, without editing or even really thinking about it. This practice is called free writing and it really helps to get the juices flowing. Only a small percentage of what you write during these free writing sessions may end up in your book, but some gems may also appear, and you will have a jumping off point.
Another good idea is to have a notebook handy at all times. Either purchase a pocket sized journal at the store, or create your own with scrap paper, scissors, and a stapler. You never know when a great line will hit you, or when a piece of memory will resurface, so you want to be ready at all times.
When it comes to your first draft, don’t judge yourself too harshly. Just get the broad strokes down and work in as much detail as possible. The idea at this point is simply to get words on the page. Think about a coloring book before it has been colored in. That is what you are trying to create.
As you progress, you can fine-tune your language, add detail, rearrange and do whatever you have to in order to move your story along. Whenever possible, try to avoid big grand conclusions, life lessons, etc. Let your readers do some of the work themselves
Depending on what you intend to do with your book, you have a few different options. Are you going to try and shop it around to publishers, or do you intend to just make a few keepsake copies for friends and families? If it is the latter, you can either send the electronic files to a self-publishing website, or print your pages at a local copy shop. One option to consider is doing your binding yourself. Thermal (hardcover) binding machines are relatively inexpensive and very easy to use, and give you the flexibility to print and bind on your own schedule.