Follow STTBooks on Twitter

Our Author's Guide

view on

This form does not yet contain any fields.
    « Making Family History Dramatic | Main | It’s Not About What Happened »

    Do I Need to Keep a Journal to Write a Memoir?

    A lot of “how-to” articles advising people who want to write memoirs tell them to begin with by keeping a journal. That’s reasonable advice as far as it goes. But a little explanation of what a journal is and why it’s useful for a memoir writer is often missing from the article.

    First, a journal is not a rough draft of a memoir. It is what writing theorists call "prewriting". You write regularly (ideally every day) on whatever comes to mind without self-editing or censoring ideas. The purpose is to capture your thoughts and gather ideas. A journal is a notebook for you to jot down things that flash across your mind. Some entries may recount events others note topics for later reflection. A journal is often fragmentary rather than being a finished piece of writing.

    A memoir, on the other hand, is developed by looking back upon what has happened and how you felt about it. It is a process of reflecting on events, the emotions they triggered and the lessons they taught. A well written memoir is carefully planned. You select those slices of life which seem most important and look for the insights they provide. A good memoir may draw on many of the techniques of fiction to tell its story.

    It is important that you understand that a journal is only one of the types of prewriting that you might use to help create a memoir. There are a variety of other writing exercises that help generate the stories and ideas you will ultimately incorporate into the finished memoir.

    PrintView Printer Friendly Version

    EmailEmail Article to Friend

    Reader Comments

    There are no comments for this journal entry. To create a new comment, use the form below.

    PostPost a New Comment

    Enter your information below to add a new comment.

    My response is on my own website »
    Author Email (optional):
    Author URL (optional):
    Some HTML allowed: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <code> <em> <i> <strike> <strong>