Tips on Writing Memoirs

June 9, 2013
Leave a Comment

Last year I published my memoirs of the days when I tested video games for a living. You can get it on Kindle, or you can get a physical copy, or you can just read a few excerpts on its own blog.

Naturally, this has made me an authority on the subject of writing such accounts amongst my friends. One of whom has a particularly interesting tale to tell. Nearly three years ago, while pushing his bike along a country road, he was hit by a driver, who essentially left him for dead. The fact that my friend didn’t bleed out at the scene is remarkable, the fact that surgeons were able to reconstruct his leg is equally remarkable – they had to take a muscle from his back to graft into the calf because he’d lost so much muscle mass there and it’s taken nearly three years for full rehab.

In many ways it’s a dreadful story, and much more worthy of telling than my frivolous accounts of toilets being turned into wishing wells and programmers being abducted from train stations.

So last night I got an email off my friend asking for advice on how to start writing a book of his experience. I gave him the following, hopefully you will find it useful too:

  • I write in a pretty much “all over the place” kind of way, writing whatever part I fancy writing at the time. Then I stitch it together and start filling in the gaps.
  • Don’t be frightened to wander off topic or out of chronology – I think folk want to know about you as a kid, if you have a story from your childhood that connects in with the main story arc.
  • Public transport is a great place for writing – I write a lot of stuff long hand on the bus, in fact I write a lot of stuff long hand full stop. It is a pain to type up but you can do the typing when you feel you should be working on your book but can’t be bothered to think.
  • If you’re writing a bit and you get bored of writing it then just plough through and get it down on paper – don’t worry about it being detailed enough, or expressive enough, just get that part of the story written. Half the time you go back and find you wrote it pretty well in the first place, and with the basics down you’ll find you have a good platform for quick progress. At the very least you discover how you don’t want to write it, but that’s rare.
  • Don’t worry about writing a long book – Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy is a million times brilliant and it’s a skinny little thang. If your story takes up 400 pages then that’s cool too – just don’t think of it in metrics. Pizza Whores gained about 20,000 words in the final edit. I have no idea where they all came from. That’s about a third of the book.
  • Find some good autobiographical books to read at the same time you’re writing. I read Moon Dust but Andrew Smith and For Richer For Poorer by Victoria Coren while writing Pizza Whores. I read Driving Over Lemons by Chris Stewart years ago and it left an impression on me – I went back and read the opening chapter while I was writing PW and found it still insanely awesome and inspiring.
  • Remember, writing is one of the few things you can do as well drunk as you can sober!

Posted in Writing