Memoir Writing For Dummies
Book image
Explore Book Buy On Amazon

Many people interchangeably use the terms “autobiography” and “memoir.” Although Amazon and many brick-and-mortar bookstores put them in the same category, they are quite different. Here’s how they are different.

An autobiography

  • Focuses on the trajectory of an entire life

  • Starts at the beginning and progresses chronologically to the end

  • Feels more like a historical document; tons of fact-checking and very specific dates/information

  • Strives for factual, historical truths

  • Typically is written by famous people

A memoir

  • Focuses on a key aspect, theme, event, or choice in a life

  • Starts anywhere and can deftly move around in time and place

  • Feels more personal; less intense fact-checking

  • Strives for emotional truths

  • Can be written by anyone

Both are based in truth. Both are highly marketable in the publishing world. And both require a good deal of research, which can range from phone interviews and trips to places you once lived, to sitting back into a comfy chair and doing some deep, focused remembering. Yet as you can see, there are significant and crucial differences between an autobiography and memoir.

About This Article

This article is from the book:

About the book author:

Ryan G. Van Cleave, PhD, is the author of 20 books, including creative writing textbooks, an illustrated humor book, a young adult novel, and a bestselling memoir.?He lives in Sarasota, Florida, where he works as an international speaker, a freelance writer, and the creative writing coordinator for The Ringling College of Art + Design. He has taught memoir writing at numerous universities as well as at prisons, community centers, and urban at-risk youth programs.

This article can be found in the category: