Writing Memoir: A Practical Guide

Peter Problogger, I am writing my memoir for my kids. Do you have any tips?

Amy, you are in luck. One of my best friends, Jerry Payne, just wrote a book about writing a memoir.

That’s just what I need Peter


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Writing Memoir: The Practical Guide to Writing and Publishing the Story of Your Life

Jerry Payne ghostwrites memoirs. I’ve never met a real ghost – writer or otherwise, so I could not resist this book. Jerry contacted me and asked me to review his book. I don’t do that often, but his book sounded helpful.

It was.


Writing Memoir by Jerry Payne

Whether or not you want to write your memoirs, Writing Memoir: The Practical Guide to Writing and Publishing the Story of Your Life is a handy how-to book is a keeper to reference often. Payne defines a memoir as centering “on a significant part, or time, of your life.” It is not “just a dry recitation of facts and dates.” Jerry Payne outlined how to write and publish a book. He included the nitty-gritty of editing and publishing.

You can read the book quickly, but don’t expect to read it straight through. I got stuck on an aha chapter that explained the reason for writing your memoir around a theme. Suddenly I had the urge to write my memoir. I wrote 9 single-spaced pages before I put it and me to bed. The next day I finished Payne’s book.

Writing Memoir is almost as easy to read as mind candy narratives. I chose to read the Kindle version because I like to highlight. Also, I wanted to cut and paste some of the quotes from his book into this review. 

Jerry Payne’s Tips for Writing a Memoir

Chapter Three lists specific books that he found helpful when writing memoirs. I did not have any of these books, so they are going on my reading list. Below are just three of them.

“Not everything needs to be described in detail, and not every scene needs to be painted.” Dialogue is important, though.

The “true heart of most memoirs lies in what I call the turning point. … In all of these cases, the characters materially changed not just their circumstances, but, in a very real way, who they were.”

“Your memoir isn’t about you.” If you know this already, you are probably farther along in the writing process than I was two days ago when I read this book.

Payne starts each chapter with a quote. I loved this one. ““I think I did pretty well, considering I started out with nothing but a bunch of blank paper.” —STEVE MARTIN”

  • This is practical advice I have not found anywhere else. Payne explains what beta readers are, how many you need, and who to get. Many writers today did not attend college to become writers. They do not have the background to understand all the details that writing encompasses. I am in this group. Payne helps sift through all the rhetoric and give writers the bare bones tools they need to create a good product.
  • When I finished my first NaNoWriMo book, I put it away, brought it back out, and polished it. I thought was ready for an editor. Flipping my browser to Google I discovered that editors specialized. I did not even know what kind of editor I needed. You will know what kind of an editor you need when you finish his book.
  • Here’s a no-brainer I bet you never considered when you wrote your first query letter. “Nonfiction is often more about the author than the content, (while)…fiction, on the other hand, is judged more on the story itself.”
  • After reading this book, the reader will realize the difference between indie and vanity publishers, and the value of both.
  • Did you know that you must have different ISBN numbers with each version and every time the price of the book changes?
  • Finally, Payne unravels the mysteries of publishing. Writers spend hundreds of dollars on courses that help them understand these steps. Payne makes it almost free in comparison, and his writing is easy to grasp.

YOU may write someone else’s memoir

Would you believe that the day after I read his book, someone approached me about taking dictation of his story and writing a book? Thank goodness I read Payne’s book and was able to explain to the gentleman that writing a book of memoirs involved more than typing up dictated notes and publishing them.

As I explained about the process, he thanked me and said I had given him a lot to think about. After lunch, he approached me again and asked how much it would cost to write his book. Telling him I would get back to him, I emailed Jerry. Would you believe that to hire a ghostwriter would cost  $30,000 to $40,000 for a 200 to 300-paged book? After reading about all the work that goes into writing a quality book, I can help this business owner face the prospect of writing his memoir realistically.


Jerry Payne

Payne’s Biography on Amazon

Jerry Payne has been writing in some form or another most of his life, never dreaming as a little boy in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania that he’d one day be able to make a living from it.

After graduating with a degree in business from Penn State, he made his way down to Tampa, Florida, beginning a successful career in sales and marketing. Ultimately, he founded a web development company where he discovered just as much demand for good web copy as good web design. From there, he became an ace copywriter until one fateful day in 2008 when a client asked him to help write a book. He found the process extremely creative and gratifying. Since then, he has committed himself to a career as a book ghostwriter and his copywriting days are behind him.

Books of all types followed and he has penned more than thirty of them. Very early on, he began to develop a keen interest in memoir and that interest led quickly to a specialization. Largely self-taught, Payne has become a student of the game, studying at length history’s greatest literature and greatest memoirs, in particular.

After having completed more than two dozen memoirs for a wide-range of clients, he decided to share his knowledge with Writing Memoir: The Practical Guide to Writing and Publishing the Story of Your Life (Faydelis Press, 2016, 126 pp.).

 Thank you, Jerry, for asking me to write a review. I am honored, and so pleased to have your book in my reference library. I expect to use it often.
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