Memoir or Fiction?

I recently received an email from a writer who is writing a Christian book that is personal. She is unsure how to write it — as Memoir or Fiction?

Several years ago, Adair Lara wrote a great article for Writers Digest that continues to be relevant today addressing this very issue: 10 Ways to Tell if Your Story Should be a Memoir or a Novel

Memoir or Fiction?

Beyond her advice and the insights from highly successful novelists and memoirists Adair shares in her piece, I’d like to stress — when it comes to writing, follow the energy. We all have great writing intentions. The intentions that have the greatest potential for success are those backed by passion and excitement. Does the thought of having personal parts of your life exposed in a memoir cause you to shrink from the actual task of sitting down, plotting and writing? Then give yourself the distance of fiction.

The Courage it Takes to Own your Own Story is Staggering

Even when used as plot points in fiction, backstory wounds of personal trauma come vividly back to life through the actual writing about them. Even if you’ve fully processed your past, writing the details often reopens painful hurts and dulls your enthusiasm for continuing. Again, the most important question to ask yourself:

What feeds my energy to write?

If you’re not showing up to write, deciding between memoir or fiction becomes a moot point.

Writing Memoir or Fiction with a plot takes you on an epic journey. Find a way to enjoy the ride and you’ll travel far with your story. 

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Paralell Lives ((A Novel of the 1960s))


Though parts of Parallel Lives are intensely personal, I never had any doubt about writing it as a novel. Like most writers, pieces of me are imbedded in every book I’ve written, even my books on plot.

Be prepared.

Whether reading a novel or a memoir or a book on plot, readers have opinions. The judgements of others about what you put out into the public forum have the power to fire up delusions of grandeur. Just as quickly, negative feedback has the power to make you doubt yourself and your work. The more personal your work, the heavier impact others’ opinions hold over you.