This Is Me--2024 A to Z Theme

My A to Z Themes in the past have covered a range of topics and for 2024 the theme is a personal retrospective that I call "I Coulda Been" which is in reference to my job and career arc over my lifetime. I'll be looking at all sorts of occupations that I have done or could have done. Maybe you've done some of these too!

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Do's and Don'ts of Memoir Writing: The FOLLOWING THE WHISPERS Blog Book Tour with Author Karen Walker

            Today I'm happy to have Karen Walker as my guest as she makes a stop on Tossing It Out in her blog tour to get the word out about her memoir Following the Whispers.  I first discovered Karen's blog fairly early on in my blogging career.  I was drawn to her pithy posts that were honest and from the heart, and often very informative.

          Today in this guest post Karen continues in that helpful vein as she provides some useful advice about writing a memoir.  After all, this is one topic that she knows well having written the successful memoir that is the subject of her current virtual book tour.  Whether or not you are planning to ever write your own memoir, the following is some good information to read and remember.


Do’s and Don’t’s of Writing Memoir

Writing memoir is not for the faint-hearted. I think one must have a compelling reason to write and publish their own story. In my case, I’d learned some valuable life lessons I thought might help others struggling with similar issues. Some want to write just for their family--that’s not the kind of memoir-writing I’m talking about. Here are my thoughts on the do’s and don’ts when writing memoir for publication.

   Do tell the truth. If you don’t remember something clearly, say so. If you are changing names, say so. Whatever you choose to do,it’s okay as long as you let your readers know.
   Don’t just take whole pages from your personal journal and think that constitutes writing a memoir. Journal writing is a whole different thing than crafting a story from your life events.
   Do use fiction techniques in your writing such as: scenes, complete with dialogue; lush descriptions, specific details, use of literary devices such as metaphor and simile. Just don’t write fiction.
   Don’t just put things in chronological order because that’s the way they happened. Craft your story the way it works the best. Here is where you can really utilize fiction techniques like flashbacks.
   Do make sure you grab your reader’s attention and craft your story to keep that interest throughout.
   Don’t make anyone in your life out to be totally evil. Make the people in your story rounded characters. Everyone has both good and bad traits. Even if someone did you great harm, they still have some redeeming virtues.
   Do make sure family members and friends are okay with what you are doing before you go ahead and do it. In my case, I needed to wait until both my parents were gone before publishing my memoir. I just didn’t want to unintentionally hurt them with my perspective on my life.

There is so much more to say on this subject, but this is a good start for anyone thinking about writing memoir.

Thank you, Lee, for hosting me today. I hope you and your readers found this informative and useful.



 About the Author:

Karen Walker is a writer who has published essays in newspapers and magazines, as well as an anthology series. After a 30+ year career in marketing and public relations, she went back to college to complete a Bachelor's degree and graduated Summa Cum Laude in 2005 from the University of New Mexico's University Studies program with a major emphasis in Creative Writing. She lives in Albuquerque, New Mexico with her husband, Gary, and their dog, Buddy. When she’s not writing, you can find her doing international folk dancing, singing at retirement communities with her trio, Sugartime, hiking, reading, or hanging out with friends.

The book:

You can find Following the Whispers at:

Be sure to visit Karen's blog at  and if you haven't been following her yet, then now would be a good time to start. 

My guest for next Wednesday will be Marcus from Writing Investigated.   Marcus is the creative mind behind the popular Blogging from A to Z search buttons or navigation buttons.  I'm sure he'll have some interesting things to say.



  1. Great tips Karen. Its all very clear and common sense. I find my best pieces have autiobiographical elements made into fiction, while my attempts at memoir seem a little self pitying and whining. :O)

  2. Great tips Karen, I could do with tips on self publishing at the moment but that's a different story,
    Thank you Lee for hosting Karen have been following her tour and her blog.

    Have a good day.

  3. I could see where some people would be hurt by things said in a memoir.

  4. Karen is a wonderful, sensitive soul and certainly the right person to be giving these insights.

  5. All good tips Karen. I could do with some extra tips on how to begin...Thankyou Lee for hosting.

  6. Thanks Lee for hosting the wonderful Karen. It is fun to follow you about, as you tell us more and more of your process, Karen. I like it. I have a story in mind based on a real event but it isn't my story. Not really. I could make it mine I suppose. The person that is at the heart of it knows my intention and we talk about it in depth. I'll keep your tips handy.Jan Morrison

  7. Good Morning Lee,
    Karen it is a pleasure to meet you! I enjoyed this post and best wishes with your book!
    Take care,

  8. I have never considered writing a a memoir but Karen shared some excellent types. Especially like the idea of giving someone a balanced portrayal. No one is all bad.

  9. Personally I write fiction, but it's all heavily based on my own life anyway.

  10. I don't think I have a memoir in me, but I can completely understand waiting to tell a painful story to avoid hurting people.

  11. Good advice, Karen. I'd never thought of writing memoir using fiction techniques, but it makes sense.

  12. I have never attempted to write me memoirs as my life has been too boring. Karen, best wishes for your continued success with Following the Whispers! You do have an amazing story to share with the world.

  13. Karen, you've managed to cram a book's worth of tips into a blog post. Way to go!

  14. An interesting post. Thank you. Peoples lives can be really fascinating and getting them down in the right way can make fantastic reading.

  15. Very useful tips. Thank you! Going over to visit you on your own blog, Karen.

  16. Karen -- It's been a delight having you as a guest. Thank you for staying on top of comments like you have--I'm sure there will be more to come.

    Thanks to all of you who have left comments. I know I can always count on my readers for good comments and questions.


  17. Karen,
    I enjoyed these no-nonsense, practical memoir writing tips. You really nailed the essence of memoir writing-tell a story using fiction techniques, stand in your truth, be aware of the people in your life who will be affected and present characters in a balanced way. Lots of pearls here as well as a great discussion.
    Thanks Karen and Lee for a great post!

  18. fantastic tips for memoir writing. I think the best memoirs are the ones that read like fiction.

  19. Karen's book is wonderful! Everyone should read it.

  20. Thanks to Karen for the terrific tips and to Lee for hosting! Good luck with the rest of your virtual tour! Julie

  21. Wow, Karen. That is so respectful of you, to wait until your parents are gone to publish your memoir.

  22. Thank you Lee, and thank you Karen! Fantastic tips here, I look forward to following your blog definatley know what you're talking about! And Lee, just wanted to let you know that I'm starting 'The Black Veil' today! I found a copy at one of my favourite stores, 'The Bookman'...I'll let you know what I think..

  23. Wow. I encourage all memoir writing, but as Kathleen said, you really nailed these points - the difference between a family memoir and one that will sell to the public. Very concise, very important. I have to link to this post.

  24. Just letting you know I am still here. Sometimes the subject is beyond me but I do read each day. Hope all is well with thee and thine!

  25. Nicely done! Thanks Lee and Karen; great tips!

  26. Karen -- Thank you again for visiting Tossing It Out. It was a helpful post. I wish you great success on Following the Whispers and on your upcoming novel.

    Eve -- I hope you will let me know what your thoughts are about The Blaok Veil.

    And thanks to all of you who left your comments on this post.


  27. Hi Lee - so pleased that Karen is getting so much exposure for her Memoir - it's a story that needs to be told ..

    I have bought it .. and so will be reading it soon ..

    Your tips here are so sensible .. we, your readers, want to 'enjoy' ourselves not be bored with drivel (writing!) .. I like the way you mention flash backs ..

    Cheers and good luck, Karen, with sales etc .. thanks Lee - Hilary

  28. I was reading Karen's site after her post on Alex's blog. Then I saw this link about Memoirs. Good information here... I've often told my Mom that she should write about her life. It's just.. unbelievable. I had a simple, boring, happy childhood and life :) Nothing to share there, but Mom? She's been through hell and back and then again and still survives. She told me when she "retires retires" (she's a returned retired teacher) then she'll write her story. I hope that will be some point and time in the future. She loves her work! Sorry, I rambled :)

  29. Thank you, Lee and Karen. Memoirs have really helped me through some challenging times in my life, so they have a special place in my heart. The tips are great, and also some good signposts for fiction.

  30. Karen, I am writing a memoir and am desperate for a glimmer of hope. It seems that the web is chock full of people saying, "do this" or "don't do that". Also I'm beginning to feel my subject matter is contrived, already been done, or that it's just not that interesting. I seem to be stuck on the idea of having to present it from growing up (which is when I showed traits of what is to come in the "arc") and so many say "don't talk about growing up, being bullied, drinking/drugging/recovery" etc. I'm a bit lost because when I tell stories aloud people say "you have to write a book" but the process is making me think that I don't, but I really want to LOL! Thoughts?


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