Peter Andersen of The Word Factory

There's a lot of advice out there for folks who want
to write their memoirs. This is the second in a series
of posts by our resident memoir coach, Pete Andersen.
Read the first one:
5 reasons you should write that memoir!

Reasons to hire a memoir-writing coach

What do Taylor Swift, Stephen King, and Ludwig van Beethoven have in common? They all depended on coaches to improve their work.

You should too.

Writing a memoir is more than sitting down at the laptop and letting the memories flow. While that part is necessary, a bit of professional guidance can transform those memories from a beautiful mess into a beautiful memoir.

Think you might need a ghostwriter instead?

3 benefits of working with a coach for your memoir

1. Focus: A coach will reduce distractions

The memoir writing process is filled with distractions, and you need an objective coach to keep you on track. Revisiting the major events in your life can you feel happy, sad, wistful, surprised, overwhelmed, vulnerable, powerful, younger, older… you get the idea. These emotions are useful and beautiful, and they’ll keep readers interested in your story. So when big emotions come up, it’s a good idea to take a moment, or an hour, or an afternoon; whatever time it requires. But then you need to get back to work, and that’s where the coach comes in.

For example, say you’re writing about an important event from your childhood. It’s easy to get overwhelmed. You begin to wonder if you should leave this event out of your memoir. On the flipside, maybe you think the story is so fascinating it deserves an entire book of its own. You’re stuck, and a coach can help get you unstuck. Because they’ve gotten to know you and your story, they may encourage you to do take a week and write the whole thing out; or take a day and get the highlights before moving on; or plow ahead and come back to this section later.

A coach helps you break through these distractions and get back to the writer’s main task: finishing that draft.

2. Guidance: A coach can help you set realistic expectations for your memoir

Who hasn’t dreamed of publishing their memoir, watching it become a runaway bestseller, and then seeing Tom Hanks or Emily Blunt play you in the movie? These things are all possible, but a coach will remind you to focus on job one: WRITE THE MEMOIR. Don’t spend too much time thinking about how that story from third grade will earn the film an Oscar. Write the way the pro’s write: one page at a time.

Perhaps the best advice a coach will give you is to keep it short. A lot of people start writing a project and imagining an 800-page tome would be about right. No. To quote my old Social Studies teacher Mr. Hackworth, the correct length for telling any story is “As long as it takes.” My mother wrote a wonderful biography of her mother a number of years ago. It’s about 50 pages, including pictures, and it’s a treasure. Leave the doorstop books to Tolstoy and Melville.

Talk with your coach about exactly what’s in your story and exactly how long it should be.

3. Results: A coach can help you finish the project

Writing projects are like cherry pies. They’re no good until they come out of the oven. This is especially true with your memoir – it’s no good until you finish it.

Think of it this way: sooner or later you need to finish writing your memoir. And because self-imposed deadlines seldom work, a coach can be immensely valuable. A coach can literally make the difference between a finished memoir and an abandoned dream. They’ll help you assess the scope of your memoir project so you can set a reasonable deadline. Once that’s done, they’ll provide the careful poking and prodding and nudging that only a coach can provide.

If you take away one thing from this article, let it be this: having a coach will increase the chances of finishing your memoir.That’s so important I’ll say it again.

Having a coach will increase the chances of finishing your memoir.

Now get writing!

Like all important writing projects, memoirs require more work and more time than we imagine they will. This means that writing your memoir will have more distractions, more fantasies of fame and fortune, and more difficulties in finishing than you imagine. A coach can help you manage all of these things in order to finish your memoir, and to share your beautiful and unique life story with your friends and loved ones.

Of course, there are more than three reasons to hire a coach. What are they? There’s only one way to find out.

Email me if you'd like some help with your own memoir!

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