Are Memoirs Nonfiction: Important Rules of Memoir Writing

The article Are Memoirs Nonfiction: Important Rules of Memoir Writing appeared first on The Write Practice.

Are you writing a memoir or novel? Are memoirs nonfiction? Or is there a difference?

When you’re writing memoir, you do have to tell the truth. You don’t have to get the truth down perfectly, giving some opportunity to fill in the blanks. However, to call it memoir, the story needs to be your best attempt at getting the facts right.

In today’s coaching video, learn how one writer learned the rules of memoir writing and how this completely changed her book. Is Denise writing a memoir, or is she better off  writing the story as fiction? Or nonfiction?

Don’t wait to find out!

Watch the Video OR Read the Transcript

So how long have you been working on this project? 

So I started it locked down last year. So probably around September, October, 2020 after watching Emily and Paris on 

Netflix. Yeah, 

it just annoyed me because it was so different from what I experienced. And so 

I was thinking about that as I was reading your, I will all of your writing 

bye synopsis.

So yeah, glamorized, I guess. 

You mean the Netflix show was not realistic. 



They would even allow that on there. But 

anyway, I just thought what’s stopping me from just telling my story.

You know, I spent a year in Paris when I was, 19 or 20, so going back 20 years now and it was really a life changing time of my life. And, obviously I can’t remember every detail, so I just thought, oh I’ll just make up whatever I’ve forgotten and fill in the gaps with imagination.

And so fictionalized memoir that what came out of it and it, yeah, it took, I I think I wrote about half, maybe a bit less than half, and then there was a big pause. And then I got back into it in lock down this year. So here in Melbourne, we were locked down for over 200 days, total. Yeah. So it was really good opportunity to do things like this.

Yeah, I miss it now a little bit. Now I know, because now we are back in the real world, even while COVID-ness is still raging behind the scenes. And and we also have to live real lives again. So it’s just horrible 

anxiety. But there’s a lot of things to do and people to see and Christmas is coming and at least it’s warm house so we can do a lot of things outdoors.

Yeah. Okay, cool. Well, I mean, let’s just jump in.

 One of the things I want to talk about is the rules about writing memoir which is important. One of the things you said that I just want to be clear about before we get too deep into your book is when you’re writing memoir, you do have to tell the truth.

It’s not okay to fictionalize if you want to call it memoir. Right? Now, you don’t have to get it right. You don’t have to get it perfectly and you can fill in some blanks and that’s not fictionalizing. That’s just doing your best. And as long as you say that in an introduction, that’s fine. Or an authors note at the beginning.

But to call it memoir, it has to be like your best i ntention of getting it correct. You can also fictionalize. And then that’s a different thing than it’s a novel. So either is great. It sounds like you’re actually a little bit closer to the memoir side. Is that true? 

Well, no having heard what you’ve just said now, I think we should probably call it a novel because there’s a lot of it is what I remember as I remember it, but I’ve made up it’s definitely.

Yeah. So maybe thinking about it more like a novel. Okay. That’s good. 

So the names have changed, but you know, people who were in it would recognize themselves if they ever read it. 


Okay. That’s fine. Then they might be like, Hey, that never happened. I’d be like, no, it didn’t. 

There you go. Yeah. It’s always fun. Having those conversations with people about, Hey, I wrote a book about you, not sorry,

 The actual people who were living in Paris, who knew many of whom I am still in contact with, I haven’t actually sent that email. 

Yeah. It’s, that’s a fun one. It’s not something you have to do now that as you get further, closer to publishing.

All right. So coming back to the premise 19 year old Australian backpacker describe yourself in two words, adventurous of critical lose to Paris to learn French and seek love. So that is our situation. Lesson learns a lot about herself in the world and the process. So I like this actually. So here with the memoir part, you have adventurous self-critical and here it’s just 19 year old Australian backpacker. I mean, I sorta get something from that, but then the, this lesson love has to come from within, before it can come from outside. So I would just incorporate that into your premise.

Because I think that’s an important part. And you also have that in your synopsis, right? 

Yeah. That’s like the final kind of moral of the story. 

I mean, I actually really liked. Including that I might do something like let me see, actually, let’s do this. We’ll just do a little bit of a mashup.

And one thing that’s helpful about doing this just in general, is that when you’re pitching agents having this line is going to be part of your query letter. So it’s good to be thinking about that from a publishing perspective now that you’re in your second and third drafts, right? Yeah. So the, at this point it’s not just a writing exercise.

This is actually part of the pitching process. All right. So if I were to do this, I almost like almost like this better. Settles in Paris for a year to learn French and seek love after getting her heart severely broken, learns, and come from the outside. How do you feel about that? Something like that.

I would put the word that in between learns and love just to be picky.

Just the gist of that though. 

Yeah. I guess if it’s going to agents, it doesn’t matter too much that you’re giving away your, 

it definitely doesn’t in fact, you want to.

I love has to come from within for it. Come from outside. Maybe we would switch the order. Like I having a synopsis. 

Yeah, you can play with us. But my point of this is that I think you want to get that in there, especially because it’s you’re trying to write coming of age, which is a worldview kind of story.

It’s a learning life lesson kind of story. So getting what you learned in there, I think is important. Now. This is true for memoir. If we’re talking about this more from a novel perspective, we could change it, but even then I kind of like it, you know? So I might just experiment with that a little bit more.

You could try a version where you just write it as a novel, with more focused on the goal, but honestly it feels like it’s almost got that in there too. So yeah, the seeking love part, especially.

Yeah, I have, no, I don’t feel bad about these. You know, I might say 

I didn’t mind, but that was the other one that I was 


What’s that now I wouldn’t think about that. Cause it doesn’t feel like erotica to me. 

It’s got moments, but overall 

I would feel likeupmarket. It doesn’t really honestly feel that chiclet either most of the, I guess the writing is too good to be honest, Denise. So yeah, I would look at upmarket and I would look at obviously women’s fiction.

I don’t know if women’s section is one of these, but market is. In between commercial and literary fiction. So book, club fiction, or that would be kind of markety, right? So that’s one thing I would think about 

oh yeah. I just considered that the writing was quite immature, sort of reads like a 19 year old, wrote it.

You know, we can we’ll go deeper into it, but I felt like that the first chapter, the writing felt strong to me, you know, just, I glance super quick right before we jumped on, but we can talk more about it. All right. 

Yeah. All right. All right. I would love to just jump into your chapter. So I’ll just read as much as I can. And then we’ll talk about it for 10 or 15 minutes.

Okay. Okay. So if you want to pause, that’s fine. I’m just going to be here reading. 


 So just initial thought. Yeah. Again, I mean, I feel like it’s strong, but a couple of things I like, I’m just kind of go through this. 

I liked that he was smiling from time to time. It’s supposed to be a bit funny. 

Yeah, it is. Okay. So I don’t know what having a bar means. Is that an Australian thing? 

Maybe it wasn’t having a bar with that means it wasn’t interested in that it wasn’t going to, it wasn’t an issue except that. 

Yeah. No it’s not an American thing. That’s funny. This part I didn’t like I was moved on from the first one, for some reason it alludes me. Now, if we’re going with the novel route, ju

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