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Family

Why working on a memoir can be the best thing for you

Old pictures and stories can help jog your memory.

Writing your life story is a useful way of preserving your family history and leaving a legacy for your children and their children. It can also be therapeutic if you've been through difficult times.
Writing about the experience and how you felt about it can help you to come to terms with what has happened.
Writing doesn't come naturally to everyone but even if it is not your forte, it is worth giving it a go.
1 If grammar, spelling and punctuation are not your strong point, don't be discouraged. They can be corrected with the help of spell check and other computer aids or you can get somebody who is good at those things to edit what you write. Just get the words down.
2 Do an outline of what you are going to write and how you are going to structure it. Most people find it easier to write their life story chronologically, while others prefer to break it into sections that have themes, for example Childhood, Education, Career, Marriage, Family, Hobbies etc.
3 When it comes to writing, don't worry too much about order, just get your thoughts down. You may want to write first about recent events, rather than things that happened when you were small. That's okay, you can re-organise things later.
4 Try to include your emotions. Don't just write, "My mother became ill with diabetes when I was 12 and I spent most of my teens looking after her." Explain how it felt to be a teenager responsible for caring for a parent.
5 Consider who is going to be reading your story. If it is just for you or close family, you can be more open about personal family matters. If you think it's worth publishing, you may need to think carefully about anything negative you write about others – if they are still alive, you could defame them. You might want to change names.
6 Don't be afraid to pick other people's brains. Friends and family may have a better recollection of particular events than you do, and also may have access to information that can help with your story.For example, older siblings may have more details about your parents and family life before you were born.
7 If you want to get an even more complete picture of your life, ask other people if they will contribute. For example, a sibling could write about their memories of you as a child or your spouse might be able to provide a different perspective to events such as the birth of your children.
8 Use old photos to jog your memory. They can remind you of events and people you may have forgotten about, and provide extra detail for you to write about.
9 It is better to break your story down into small chapters rather than having pages and pages of unbroken text that's hard to read.
10 Consider having the story professionally edited and proofed, especially if others will be reading it. You can find people who do this on the internet.
11 Why not publish your book yourself? It will cost you, but you will end up with a permanent record of your life. There are lots of companies that help authors to self-publish books, such as Smashwords, or else websites that let you create photo albums online often have provisions for the pages to be filled with text. You can include photos to add interest.
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