You just know you have a book in you. Maybe you have overcome some enormous obstacles in life, or maybe you have lived the life of a globetrotting nomad. Writing a memoir offers an opportunity to open the doors to your soul and give readers a glimpse inside your personal journey.

Putting some of your life stories into book form can offer readers useful insights to adapt to their own lives. A good memoir will have an inherent purpose, a valuable takeaway message or a blueprint to help someone improve an aspect of their lives.

Surprisingly, many successful memoirs are written by everyday people and not celebrities. The wisdom and inspiration gleaned from a regular person’s story have an authentic and approachable quality that readers respond to.

If you have an interesting or inspiring story to tell about your own life, get familiar with the following tips to help you write a successful memoir. Learn here about what makes a good memoir and how to know if your memoir is worth writing.

What Makes a Good Memoir?

Before you begin your memoir project, you need to start with a little soul searching.

What is the message you want to communicate by writing your book? What events in your life story are worth sharing publicly, and how can this information provide some value to the reader? Which details are best left out?

Spend some time sketching out your story’s key events and dividing them into rough chapters and sections. This gives the book a framework to build your memoir from its introduction to its captivating conclusion.

Consider some of the elements that make a good memoir:


Your memoir’s theme will be based on a snapshot of your life, something unique that you want to convey to your reader. A good memoir will have a tight focus point, an inherent message that will drive the story toward its intended purpose through the power of reflection.


To write an effective memoir, it is crucial to keep it real. Readers won’t be fooled by any attempts to embellish the truth. It is always best to relay events, emotions, revelations, and relationships as honestly as you can remember them.

Emotional beats

A compelling memoir is an emotional journey that captures its reader’s heart early on. Delve into the moments that propel the story and let yourself relive the emotional impact of these moments. Bring the reader along to experience these pivotal inflection points in your memoir.

Initiating incident

When structuring your book, you should identify an event that initiates the key theme as the story’s driver. This doesn’t mean you must write your memoir chronologically. The event may actually happen later but can be introduced early on.


The challenges faced along the author’s journey are what will resonate most with the reader. By sharing your setbacks and describing how you overcame them, you provide knowledge and inspiration to the reader.

Ending incident

Decide on an endpoint for your memoir, some point in time that feels like a natural closure to the story you have shared. This ending incident will tie up the theme of the book, leaving the reader feeling satisfied.

Good Memoir Topics That Pique Interest

Chances are you have a few different avenues you could explore for a memoir. Most of us have lived long enough to have racked up several interesting chapters in our lives. When deciding which direction to take, consider these memoir topics that tend to resonate broadly:

  • An unusual life event, such as living through a natural disaster or a war
  • Overcoming adversity and triumphing in life
  • A unique upbringing, such as being raised in an atypical family
  • Overcoming a disability or illness (physical, mental, learning)
  • Travels and adventures that document unique experiences
  • Grief process following the loss of a loved one (a spouse, a child, a parent)
  • Making a significant change in life (weight loss, divorce, career)
  • A spiritual awakening and journey

5 Famous Memoir Examples

To get a feel for the types of memoirs that have become literary successes, check out some famous memoir examples. These lists can be found on Goodreads and other online sources and can provide a good idea about memoirs well received. Some examples of these include:

  1. Educated, by Tara Westover (2018). Westover’s life story takes her from her childhood in Idaho, raised by a survivalist family that did not embrace education to earning a Ph.D. from Cambridge University.
  2. When Breath Becomes Air, by Paul Kalanithi (2016). Dr. Kalanithi shares his transformation story from having a career as a neurosurgeon to becoming a Stage IV cancer patient.
  3. Eat, Pray, Love, by Elizabeth Gilbert (2006). Gilbert sets off on a travel adventure only to learn much about herself, finding her purpose, and facing her own unfulfilled needs.
  4. Tuesdays with Morrie, by Mitch Albom (1997). Inspired by his weekly visits and deep discussions with his dying professor, Albom embraced a life of giving through philanthropy.
  5. Man’s Search for Meaning, by Viktor Frankl (1946). Written by psychiatrist Frankl who shares about treating survivors of the Holocaust and what wisdom he gained from that experience.

Get an Expert Opinion on How to Tell Your Story

If you are considering writing a memoir but are not quite sure of the topic, theme, or structure of the story, why not get some input from a publishing professional? At Gatekeeper Press, our publishing team is here to offer guidance and a milieu of editing and book cover design services to help you get your memoir to print. Reach out to us today!