Structure is the primary concern of the writer, how to order all the key emotional plot points to keep the reader turning pages.

A memoir is not an autobiography. Unfortunately, unless you are a sportsperson, politician, musician, or movie star, no one cares about where you were born or your ancestral history, how your parents met, and what you did in grade three. Unless, of course, this is of itself interesting enough to be a story. A memoir is a slice of your whole life, focused around a topic, an idea or theme, a specific time, or linked moments that resonate around a search or question of some kind.

Here are 6 STEPS to help you find your structure.


When shaping your memoir, it helps to narrow the focus as much as possible – not just My Journey to Healing, but My Struggle with Addiction from recognition of the issue to finally getting clean. Not My whole life was leading to this but The Last three years of growth. Not My entire family history but My discovery of my lost grandmother. The narrower the focus the better.


This may be the inciting incident, or it may be another emotional turning point in your story that hooks the reader in and establishes what the story will be about. For example, the first scene in a medical recovery memoir may be in a doctor’s office receiving a diagnosis. Or finding a hidden photograph of a woman who looks strangely familiar, but that no one has ever mentioned. Make sure you are front and centre in the scene, making decisions and acting.


At the beginning of any story, it’s very important that we are grounded in time and place. Establish where your story is set. Is it set in the gritty backstreets of Logan or the leafy riverside suburbs? In India or Australia? Where are we, and most importantly WHO ARE WE WITH? In memoir you are the central character. The “you” from the past is not who you are now. Describe yourself with a few specific details, illustrate your character by showing interactions with others. And most importantly, give us something to connect with, a moment of vulnerability or relationship so we care about you as a character. If we see you as a person who is loved, if only by your cat, we’re more likely to want to share your story.

  • INCITING INCIDENT –What moment in time propelled you on this story journey – a diagnosis, finding yourself asleep in a gutter, an accident, a betrayal? This plot point come quite early in the story.
  • CLIMAX What was the most dramatic emotional moment during this period of your life? This is the point you are writing towards. Structure all other emotional turning points so that they lead up to this point. Put your Heart Clutching Moments on index cards and order them so they peak at the climax. Often with memoir, chronological order can work best, but weaving background story through moments of high drama works well too.
  • ENDING – Where to end? We don’t need to come right up to the present day. After all the present day is shifting quickly. Is there a moment of revelation, a moment of hope, or a time where the issue seemed to resolve? This is real life so no resolution or moment will ever be the complete end of the story, but you can’t continue writing your memoir until you die. Not if you want it published anyway. So, find a place where the story feels at least in some way to have found a natural ending and be content with leaving it there.

And remember, as with all narratives, in order to keep your readers turning the page we need to keep them moving between HOPE and FEAR. See my post HERE.

Were these points useful for you? Have you got any questions or comments? I’d love to hear from you.

The next RELAX AND WRITE RETREAT is all about memoir and life writing. In Highfields near Toowoomba among the trees. Come along and connect with like-minded women and get those stories out of your head and onto the page. Perfect for memoirists and those with stories to tell who just need to make a start. Only $380 all inclusive if you book before the end of August 2021. CONTACT ME for more info.

GOOD LUCK! Memoirists are the most courageous of writers. Go forth and roar!

Lots of love

Edwina xx

Magical Magnetic Island Mermaids!

Sunset at Horseshoe Bay

Greetings from paradise! I’ve been having a wonderful time on Magnetic Island with my magical mermaid retreaters over the weekend.

Eight wonderful women writers in a beautiful location. Yoga in the mornings. Writing workshops through the day and lots of feasting and fun in between.

The sun came out for us, and we made the most of it with outdoor sessions and a picnic. Warm enough to swim.

Magda had us all entertained with tales from a life in shearing sheds, Kerstin shared parts of her memoir in process, young talents Bianca and Eliza wowed us with their writing, Julie rugged up and had a great time remembering she loved to write, Annie had us all laughing, and Sitara our tree-warrior made us think about how important our leafy friends are. Poor Antoinette came down with a dreadful tummy bug but luckily was back in action and shining again by Sunday. We all had fun writing like furies and sharing our stories.

Special thanks to Bianca for making us all delicious rice paper rolls for our picnic and Magda for the special Strawberry Moon treats and for playing taxi driver to get everyone to their ferries on time. 

As always we finished out retreat with a collage session, collecting images that will feed into our hopes and dreams. Here are our finished creations!

Here are what retreaters had to say about the retreat.

“A great sense of welcoming and belonging.”

“Relax and Write Retreats always deliver exactly that … I came, I wrote, I relaxed. Ed goes above and beyond to ensure retreaters are nurtured, encouraged and rejuvenated, and this is a tranquil setting with an inclusive experience.”

“Fun and informative. Love the inclusion of play and yoga.”

“Expert advice.”

So if your writing mojo is in need of a reboot, come along and join us at a retreat.

SPRINGBROOK August 13 – 15 – Feedback and Revision Retreat.

This retreat is best for those working on projects in need of redrafting, with a self-editing and feedback focus.

HIGHFIELDS October 22 – 24  – Relax and Write in the Mountains

This retreat has a Life Writing focus and is best for those writing memoir and those new to writing with lots of writing exercises to get you started.

CONTACT ME for more info.

You’re very welcome.

We always have a wonderful time! Yes, it’s true.

Every retreat is filled with its own special magic, never more so than on magical Magnetic Island.

With lots of love from Edwina and all the Magnetic Island Mermaids