The Three Stages of Memoir Writing

Do you recognize these stages of writing? 

Kick Starting Your Memoir 

Beginnings are fun, for a while! But all too soon, you wonder if you’re on the right track, if your ideas are worthwhile, or if your have a right to the memories you want to write down. Finding a coach to help you with your challenges at the beginning can help you meet your writing goals and develop your ideas and stories. 

  • You have an idea you want to develop, and you need to figure out how to get started.
  • You’ve started your book but can’t figure out where it goes next.
  • You don’t know whether to outline or just start writing.
  • The voices of your family are fighting in your head—and you want help with permission to write your story.


The Muddy Middle 

The journey through writing a book is full of surprises, many happy ones and others that seem to get you stuck in what we call the Muddy Middle. This stage of writing can include running into surprising emotions, or the realization that what you want to write is part of a healing process. Your writing coach helps you to sort through what is happening in your writing and how to solve your challenges so you can get to “The End.” 

  • In the muddy middle, you may encounter two factors that get in the way: doubts, and what my colleague Brooke Warner calls “Time Bandits.” A coach can help you be accountable to your schedule, your writing plan, and your attitude.
  • The inner critic may be larger and louder than you expected. You can learn to conquer the inner critic that swallows up all your good ideas and intentions.
  • A clear idea of your outline, plot, and takeaways help you to focus your message and themes. In the long process of writing a book, we can lose our clarity about these factors in writing a long memoir.
  • Running into past memories that are disturbing or family dynamics can derail your memoir project. With a thirty years’ experience as a therapist, I can help you with the healing aspect of your memoir so you can move forward.


Birthing Your Book Into the World 

After your first draft is done, there are several most steps to get your book published. Your memoir coach can help you learn to become your own best editor. 

  • Learn how to read your memoir as if you are an editor. Keep an eye on language, tone, pacing, scene development, plot, and sensual details to create a world on the page.
  • What is the pacing in your memoir—does it work throughout or are there slow places or missing details?
  • Do you use scenic details, and create well-rounded characters?
  • Are you using scenes balanced with “telling?” A successful memoir tells and shows in equal balance to create meaning in the story.

Once you’ve edited your final draft, you have more decisions to make—how you want to publish your memoir—traditional press, small press, or self-publishing. Professional advice and resources can help you make the decision that will best suit your book, your audience and market. 

  • Learn about building your book platform.
  • Find out what resources will help you get your book in the world.
  • Create a plan for your book’s publication.
  • Discover the information you should have as an author—from publication details to book events.

Contact me to sign up for a complimentary strategy session to discuss your project.

Linda Joy Myers, Ph.D., is the president and founder of the National Association of Memoir Writers, & Co-President of the Women’s National Book Association, SF. Passionate about memoir writing, she’s the author of Don’t Call Me Mother—A Daughter’s Journey from Abandonment to Forgiveness; The Power of Memoir—How to Write Your Healing Story, and a workbook The Journey of Memoir: The Three Stages of Memoir Writing to be released in February, 2013.

Linda Joy co-teaches the program Write your Memoir in Six Months with Brooke Warner, and is a speaker, coach, and online memoir teacher. Many of her students have gone on to publish their memoirs.

Linda has won prizes for fiction, memoir and poetry: First Prize, Jessamyn West Fiction Contest; Finalist, San Francisco Writing Contest for Secret Music, a novel about the Kindertransport; First Prize, poetry, East of Eden Contest, and First Prize Carol Landauer Life Writing Contest. The first edition of her memoir Don’t Call Me Mother won the BAIPA Gold Medal award in 2005.