What makes a great memoir?

I’m writing mine which at the very beginning of this journey seemed really simple. Just pick 20 of my favourite blogs, make them into chapters and send them to a happy Publisher.

Easy peasy.

WRONG. So wrong.

Photo by Taryn Elliott

First, finding someone that wants to publish what I write was a surprising thing. It was easier than I thought. I honestly thought I’d send my ‘sample blogs’ out to at least 100 publishers before one of them would say “okay we’ll take a look” – albeit warily.

But no, I sent my sample chapters – which included one about pooing my pants – to 6 publishers. SIX. 4 wrote back “no thanks” which I fully expected. One wrote back “We love it! Please send your full manuscript to us”


So I started taking writing my novel more seriously.

I don’t have a lot of literary knowledge so I started researching Autobiographies.

Which led me to the firm conclusion that this is not what I’m writing.

As I researched “Memoirs”, I felt myself nodding to the description, thinking “Yes. YES. This is more what I want to do”

So I looked up how to write a memoir and downloaded a free guide on a book outline for a Memoir. I gave it a lot of thought and decided mine would be themed on Adversity because that’s something I know a lot about it. With the famous advice “Write what you know” thudding in the recesses of my mind, I decided that hard times is what I know loads about and can easily write an entire book about.


I wrote up my outline, picking 20 chapters based on 20 times in my life where I’ve faced some pretty awful experiences. I named my Memoir “Jane Bevan is a knob” because my husband said it once and it was hilarious to me at the time.

Writing the chapters was fairly easy to begin with; because a lot of them I’d blogged about in the past and the ones without blogs were easy to write about because I carry a lot more in my heart than even I knew about. Getting it out onto paper (or in my case, onto WORD documents) was a really fast and easy experience.

Done, right?


Because then my perfectionist tendencies kicked in.

It has to be perfect, JD.

So the re-drafting and harsh editing started.

And the nit-picking began.

And depression and madness set in.

And now I hate my memoir!!! I hate everything!!!

One of my great ideas when taking the writing of my memoir seriously was to make a ‘focus group’ of 8 friends who have shown A LOT of interest in my baby Novella which is a romance I started to write at the very beginning of the Covid19 Outbreak. It was still called the “Corona Virus” back then, that’s how early this all was. I wanted to write a novel about people in their 30’s (everyone is in their 20’s in romance novels which seems incredibly unfair to me) and about real people in real life situations. An overweight female protagonist instead of a perfect girl and a male who struggle with finances – not an inexplicably single billionaire. This couple had to pay for dates, had to work together through illness, had to meet each others far-from-perfect families and friends – I wanted people (my friends, mostly) to see themselves and their friends in my Novella. A lot of friends fell in love with Hayley and Rajesh and oh my word, the messages I got of “No Rajesh, don’t do that!” or “Please write more and tell Hayley I so relate to her having a wide ass” really touched my heart.


I’m going off track.

I contacted my ‘focus group’ and told them I wanted to bin my memior.

Praise God, they ALL said “step away from the bin” and to keep believing in my Memoir.

I’m so thankful for all my friends, you guys are champions.

Yesterday I wandered around in Dymocks bookstore and found myself at the section selling Memoirs – which is what I wanted to write about today.

What makes a great memoir?

For me, humour and truth. There were a lot of memoirs by famous actors, sportspeople, models, instagram influences (blech) and even Michelle Obama…all these books by famous people who I couldn’t relate to. I’m happy you’re rich and famous but I don’t want to know about your life because it’s not going in influence or positively impact mine at all – so back on the shelf you go, really.

There weren’t a lot of books displayed by non-famous people.

There was one called something like “Sobriety diaries” or something like that which seemed like an amazing memoir to read if you were also coming off alcohol or struggling with it…but again, something I couldn’t relate to.

The memoirs that caught my interest were funny, real, honest and vulnerable.

I think that’s definitely what I’d like mine to be.

2 responses to “What makes a great memoir?”

  1. your book would be amazing to read 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. You are quickly becoming one of my favourite bloggers, you know. I will send you a signed copy once my book comes out 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

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