Non-fiction writing, of course, covers a range of sub-genres…blogs, web articles, journals, amongst others, but for the purposes of this blog, I will be focusing on just three: memoirs, biographies and autobiographies. I have selected just four tips for writing these three genres. Here they are:
Your memories are a rich storehouse of treasure when you plan to write non-fiction. As you start to consider what you want to write about, memories come flooding into your brain, sometimes and surprisingly from long, long ago. To make sure you get the best out of this treasure trove, it’s a good idea to start jotting them down or recording them in a notebook or a computer file. Even if the memory seems insignificant at the time, write it down anyway. You can start making sense of your notes later. The mere act of committing your memories to paper can be very therapeutic. The power of the pen is healing.
Before you begin on the sometimes daunting task of actually writing your memoir, autobiography or biography, you might consider keeping a journal. A journal can help you to store your memories and even to make sense of them. More comprehensive than a diary – in your journal, you are likely to reflect on some of the events in your life; you may be more selective about the things you are describing there. In your journal, you might write about the significance of certain events in your life; perhaps a watershed moment gave you a new direction in your life. As a bonus, and without even realising it, you are practising the appropriate style for non-fiction writing, and so you’ll be more prepared when you do actually start to write your book.
If you’re writing a biography or autobiography, preparing a timeline of events is useful. A diagrammatic representation of significant events in your, or in someone else’s life can be a very useful tool for organising your thoughts. Once this is done, you can organise your facts into chapters – the usual way is in life stages, e.g. Childhood, Teenage years, The Challenges of University life, and so on. You could spend more time in one particular segment of your life which you found more meaningful than the others. Here, you could flesh out some of those anecdotes, make more detailed notes about a character who greatly impacted your life, and so on.
If you’re writing a memoir, which is likely to focus more on a particular segment of your life or to highlight a significant theme, you might consider:
The emotional arc of your work. Memoirs are very often more about feelings and how events have affected you.
Before you really get stuck into writing your narrative, think of the meaning of your story, weave your themes together to make a coherent whole, and think about the message/s you want to convey to potential readers.
Once you have carefully done all this preparation, you’re equipped with the main tools you need to start writing in earnest.
Enjoy exploring your memories!
For more insight on how to begin your writing journey, you can find more helpful insights in my blog: Some tips for writers beginning their careers.