Do The Research!

Whether I’m ghostwriting your memoir or you are writing a memoir yourself, it’s important to have a pretty comprehensive understanding of the events on the periphery of your life. Some memoir ghostwriting clients will talk about aspects of the world they didn’t understand at the time and simply conclude: I still don’t really get it! For instance,

  • “I remember my parents fighting about the Iran-Contra scandal, but I don’t know what it was all about.”
  • “In the eighties, I didn’t understand the relationship between HIV and AIDS. Still don’t.”
  • “I remember my dad packed the whole family in the car and we fled across the country because he was afraid the Russians were going to drop a bomb on our town, but I don’t know why.”

In a memoir, you want to avoid concluding that you just don’t know. Do the research. Find out. 

Apply hindsight to your writing

A memoir should be written from a point of wisdom, and what readers find interesting is how you apply the hindsight you now have to the ignorance of your youth. If you had known what was really going on, would you have done things differently? If you had been able to see the world from your parents’ perspective, what would that have been like? As a ghostwriter, when I see these areas of ignorance, I’ll go ahead and research that item.

I’ll find out what the political situation was at the time, or the knowledge about public health at that time, or the cultural attitude in a certain place at a certain time. When I give a client this information, this often prompts an “aha moment” when he or she takes that missing puzzle piece and is able to put together an entire series of events that had always seemed mysterious. So if you’re writing your memoir yourself, go ahead and do the research. In most cases, you’ll find it’s not hard to learn what you need to know to fill in that crucial blank, and now you’re writing a memoir from the standpoint of wisdom, which makes it so much more interesting. 

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