The Big WHY in editing Memoirs

This is #9 in my “Weird Indie Publishing series. While the author should be able to answer “Why am I writing this” for any book she writes, it’s especially true for the memoir written by someone who isn’t famous.

Generally, at least in the U.S., we write about our personal stories — that is, we write memoirs — to shed some light on a path we’ve taken for other travelers. We want to be of service, to help our reader find his way through that same jungle. At least that’s the perspective of NAMW, the National Association of Memoir Writers.

Only celebrities get to tell their story simply because they want to. From a publisher’s point of view, because they are celebrities, they already have a following — unlike many indie authors.

The BISAC, Book Industry Study Group Categories specifies under Biography and Autobiography what areas are allowed. This is an important idea because other countries are not so liberal. For example, anyone writing a memoir to be published as an eBook they hope to distribute world-wide should check the information about other countries’ categories — for example, What does memoir mean in England? You can do that on Kindle Publishing website.

Generally, authors can choose between writing a book that might support him or at least introduce him to the market place — one indicated as a “need” in the categories (called Write to Market by Chris Fox, author of that title). OR they can choose a “passion piece”, a book they’ve always wanted to write — with no attachments to outcome.

For some, the passion piece might be one most likely to have a tiny following. But if it’s a story about their personal experience, there are many reasons they might feel compelled to pursue it.

Maybe they were “called or told to write their story.” Maybe their Higher Self guided them to write their story for healing so they could move on from whatever hurt them; in that case, the project is completed when the healing is and it might not be important to publish it. Maybe they honestly believe there is a public service reason for writing about what happened to them — my understanding of NAMW’s perspective about memoirs.

But no matter why we choose to write a personal story, it’s important to get clear about our why.

What I’ve learned since I began writing mine is that if I’m not absolutely clear about why I’m writing this, then I am out of alignment with my own work and that confusion will make the rest of the journey hell.

I struggled with my editor because “he didn’t get it”. I struggled with editing his edits because something was bothering me, and I called it everything but what it was, because I didn’t know what it was.

Finally, I got clear on what I was doing and why and in that moment this past Sunday morning I realized what I needed to do. In less than thirty minutes I fixed the nagging problem that I was unaware existed, the one that was keeping me out of alignment with my stated purpose.

I have been totally clear that my story is about MY experience. It’s not about anyone else. My book is not a revenge piece. Other people appear, but only because they played a role in my drama.  It’s not about them. It’s about me — my reactions, my choices.

And now, I am finally just as clear that my story is about what I learned.  WHERE I learned it isn’t important; this is not a travel book.

I had believed even that was firmly decided when I wrote the Preface about how the book came to be. It wasn’t. And I had been getting messages from Tarot, but didn’t understand specifically how they applied to my book. Now I do!

Apparently, as in life, we must continually reaffirm our position until we’re on the other side of whatever experience or project we’re doing.  And we absolutely must be in alignment with the big WHY for writing our personal story.


  1. Indie Publishing: My Weird Project
  2. Weird Publishing Project:  Beta Readers!
  3. 10 lessons learned:  Beta Readers
  4. Help, Please?  Title Poll
  5. How I Wrote My Memoir
  6. Naked, Drunk & Writing
  7. Find Your Editor
  8. Dancing with Your Editor

Till next time,

“Be kind to everyone you meet for we all have our hidden sorrows.” ~Tzaddi

Coming Up Next: A Timeline for the Journey from Draft to Launch

2 responses to “The Big WHY in editing Memoirs

  1. Good Blog post Pam. My phone doesn’t let me reply. I’ve learned so much from you abt writing. Thank you! It’s always good to know our intentions . Love you!

    Sent from my iPhone



  2. Pleasure, Heather!
    (time out to dance)…
    OMG! A comment! from a HUMAN! Thanks so much!
    You do realize I’m learning as I go, right? Today I read about writing book descriptions,and, of course,that will show up in a blog post down the road.


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