How Did I Write My Memoir?

Conflicted Hearts Cover MEDIUM revisedLooking back on the journey of my book’s creation, Conflicted Hearts, I found myself going over the process from where I began.  As a first time, soon-to-be author, in the final stages getting ready for publication, I found that as the months went by in the ‘go go go mode’, that when I finally reached the final edited version is when I stood back and went ahh, wow, how did I get here?

I think the process for writing in memoir is different for each writer. We all devise our own system to organize best, the way we work. For me, it was a little bit of trial and error in the beginning of the organizational stages. As I worked feverishly through the writing stages by day, I spent long nights reading many books; not only for writing but for self publishing, marketing. I also learned that my computer had many more facets for me to master than I had ever realized. I spent some time trying to learn Scrivener which many writers use and recommend. I even read ‘Scrivener for Dummies’ but I couldn’t quite get a handle on it so I threw in the towel and I focused my efforts on learning ‘Word Styles’. Thanks to Joel Friedlander, and his exceptionally helpful newsletter I subscribe to and my new best friend ‘google’, I successfully got my manuscript into Word using styles.

Writing my book, I’d have to say was more enjoyable than what comes after, ie: revisions, revisions and more revisions, marketing, keeping up with social media and learning a myriad of other programs and applications. Writing memoir for me became so cathartic. There is something about getting raw emotions out of your head and on to paper that evokes a sense of new-found freedom. Pent up emotions can have a propensity to consume one.

As I wrote, sure I had stopped many times along the way and questioned myself on how can I publish this book when I will be exposing so much of myself as well as others. Then I’d remember the many books I’d read along the way which all said, keep writing, don’t stop to second guess yourself, don’t edit along the way, write freely, write what you know, everything else will be saved for revisions. Those were the helpful things which kept my writing sane. One of the most helpful books I went back to many times which helped me organize my thoughts and writing on memoir was Linda Joy Myers’, Journey of Memoir. Another great book was William Zinsser’s , On Writing Well. I began to understand the difference between autobiography and memoir. Memoir is a theme in your life. They can be short essays, vignettes or really how one chooses to set it up but there is always a theme with intent to send out a message. Zinsser writes…Write vignettes of particular events and when you think you are done, put them all together and you will find your theme.

I had kept a journal for years, I’d often write about things that tugged at my heart strings or summations of events that took place in my life through the years. The funny part was that for all I wrote, I had never gone back and re-visited my writings. When I began going through my pages and re-read and began making some law and order out of them, it became to easy for me to fill in the gaps by following my memories from the pages I had already written. I had always prided myself on an excellent memory and ironically these past few years, my recent memory sometimes escapes me, such as what I ate for dinner yesterday, yet my long-term memory can clearly recall events in my life as far back as three years old…What’s up with that anyway? I also began to deal with the uncomfortable feelings I began having about actually publishing what I had written. As a person who always tried to avoid sharing her private life and hurting someone’s feelings, when my book’s theme presented itself to me, I began having anxiety about some of the people in the book who may not be particularly pleased to be in it. I tried to cut stuff and I did but some of the events were pertinent to my book’s theme that I couldn’t cut anymore. ‘Write what you know,’ I kept saying to myself as it became my mantra.

My theme became very apparent. I really didn’t know what it was until I got so involved with the writing and looking back on what I had already written. How I didn’t recognize it right off the bat was absurd, as I tried hard to deny it. All roads led to the emotional guilt I had lived with all my life. Whether I chose to recognize it or not, it was a fact. No matter what ventures I took in life; the ups and the downs, the guilt I carried from my mother, never seemed to escape me. I once had a conversation with a relative of mine when she discovered I was writing this book. There was no praise or well-wishes. Instead, I got questioned, ‘Who is this book about?’, she asked emphatically. ‘Your mother?’ I replied, ‘No, the book is about me, and yes, my mother plays a part in it because her actions affected much of my life.’ She acted as though I were writing in vengeance instead of trying to understand that I was writing to express where I had come from, how I came to be and what I had learned and how I dealt with life. I know people will always see things in a different light than perhaps the writer does, but memoir is the writer’s ‘truth’. Some see only what they want to see; some will never understand the lessons.

As memoir writers, it is our job to tell our truth. It is our point of view from how we lived and experienced our life. Sometimes it cannot be sugar-coated and the characters involved cannot be adorned for more than who they were. It is brutal and sometimes painful to write in memoir. I have learned this first hand. Many tears I had shed during the making of my book. I hope that my readers can gain some insight from it and realize how susceptible children really are to their environments in childhood and how absolutely a childhood is the beginning of the formation of his/her character.

Below, I’d like to pass on some really helpful books and sites that I found invaluable amongst many others:

Journey of Memoir – Three stages of Memoir Writing………………Linda Joy Myers

On Writing…………………………………………………………………………………..Stephen King

On Writing Well……………………………………………………………………………William Zinsser

Writing About Your Life……………………………………………………………….William Zinsser

Writing The Memoir – From Truth to Art……………………………………..Judith Barrington

Bird By Bird…………………………………………………………………………………..Anne Lamott


In the next two weeks, I will be posting a short excerpt from my upcoming book, Conflicted Hearts as an introductory prelude to its publication, feel free to click on my Conflicted Hearts page for a brief synopsis and after it is published there will be a link there where you will be able to purchase it at Amazon, both in e-book and print.

©D.G. Kaye – 2013


24 thoughts on “How Did I Write My Memoir?

  1. My friend you continue to amaze me, even with these short stories about writing your book, just awesome and well done, looking forward to read the book


    1. Hiiiii, thanks so much, it really means a lot, yes, writing isn’t only a book. I share my experiences with my readers and other writers, it is so gratifying, the book will be out in a few weeks! 🙂


  2. Hi D.G.
    You are very courageous and your book is bound to be good because it is truthful. I liked what you said about your theme becoming apparent only when you got involved. It reminded me of what a workshop leader recently said: “If you have nothing to say but something to discover write.”

    I am very much looking forward to reading your excerpts.


    1. Hi Carol! Thanks for your kind words. Yes, when I began my book’s journey it was overwhelming and it seemed the more books I read the more I was driven to put my writing together and after reading William Zinsser, it all seemed to click for me. You can’t just write on and on without a sense of story or where it all leads and in the beginning I was questioning myself as to, ‘So what? Why should anyone care about what I am writing?) I began to find the driving force to my stories and worked from there. I wanted to write something about the journey not only for readers but for fellow writers to find what inspires them and their process. Thanks for dropping by. 🙂


    1. Thank you so much my great author friend and mentor! I am honored to have you on my front cover!!! 🙂 Two-three weeks, I will ‘hit publish’ but not before we speak again 🙂


  3. As I sit down to catch up on all of my networks, I am so inspired, and grateful, to find this fabulous post … my dearest D.G!!! I understand and relate to much of what you have written here as I have 2 different versions of my story written in memoir, both still unfinished out of fear and not being in the right time & place in my life to write my memoir to its completion. With that said, you enlighten me, motivate & inspire me to get myself there one day soon. But enough about me … I can’t wait to purchase my copy of this book and sit down with a cup of chamomile tea and read every word of your first published book!!! Keep writing. Keep inspiring!!! ♡Jen


  4. This is wonderful, Debby. I love learning about your writing process. I began with a need to write, to get down the story, to not forget. It was cathartic and powerful. It took almost two years to realize I was writing a book (even though I’d never before published anything longer than ten pages). I had helpers. First my writing teacher Ellen Schmidt who didn’t mind my tears in her intimate classes. Then Jill Swenson a book development editor who taught me how to turn my 144 short stories into a coherent book length narrative–culling what wasn’t needed and adding what had been left out. I also had detailed journals to use and they were helpful because sometimes at the most emotional moments, I was in sort of a dream or shocked state. I knew I wouldn’t remember later and wanted to, so my journal keeping served me well.

    My book exposes my sons as well as me, but in a positive way. (I have a publisher, by the way, and my book will be released in fall 2014. I just found a title I love because the working title felt off, and we’re talking cover design.) I try to take all levels of this as creative opportunities, including the social media part. Otherwise I would not have contacted women like you.

    Great distinctions between autobiography and memoir and good book suggestions. A useful, meaty article in so many ways. I’m sure your readers will gain insight from your book and weep their own tears in response. Thank you.


    1. Oh Elaine, I do love hearing your thoughts on writing. Thank you for your take on it as well. Usually what is best written, is from the heart as you well-know. This journey was all by myself with no real human contact, but most grateful for the friends and helpful people I have met along the way in the cyber world. It has been an inspiring experience and I am so grateful to have landed in a place where I have met like people who I can communicate with as we all share the same passion. I will be first in line to get your book Elaine as the wisdom you have to share can only be acquired through living. Thank you for being here. xo


  5. Great post… Your book has already caught my attention. D:G!!!… That´s amazing & you must be so proud… Congratulations & hope to hear more from it… Cheers ! Aquileana 🙂


      1. I LOVE your book cover! 🙂 I’m so happy for you. I know you poured your heart into this book. Congrats!


      2. Thank you soooooooooo much Stephanie. I suppose there is a reason we call it a ‘labor of love’, lol. 🙂


  6. I realize that this is an oldie (2013) – but WordPress offered it up at the end of another post tonight and I clicked it — and I admire you even more after reading it. You have accomplished SO much since you wrote this post and published your first book. Very inspiring. Thanks for sharing your process – and the resources.
    (Madelyn Griffith-Haynie – ADDandSoMuchMORE dot com)
    ADD/EFD Coach Training Field founder; ADD Coaching co-founder
    “It takes a village to educate a world!”


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s