Should your memoir be a novel? 10 Questions to Help You Decide.

Photo by Blue Mimosa, Flickr Creative Commons

Many writers have a hard time deciding whether their life stories should be written as a memoir or a novel. I know I wrestled with this in the process of writing my memoir. There’s no right answer for everyone, only a right answer for you. Here are 10 questions to help you decide if you should write a memoir or a novel:

1. Can my memories be organized into a clear story arch with an inciting incident, middle build, climax, and resolution?

2. Do I remember events and important scenes from my life vividly?

3. Do I have a decent platform on the subject matter in my book?

4. Do I feel comfortable putting my true story out there?

5. Do I enjoy reading memoir?

6. Do I find myself wanting to exaggerate the story as I write, or find myself asking “if only it happened this way…”

7. Do I mostly read fiction?

8. Would the story be stronger if I significantly pruned it in a way that wouldn’t be true to the actual experience?

9. Is there anything at stake for me if I were to publish a memoir? (Career, relationship with children, the law, etc.)

10. Do I long to take bits and pieces from my life and combine them with elements from my imagination?


If you answered mostly yes to questions 1-5, perhaps you should write a memoir.

If you answered mostly yes to questions 6-10, perhaps you should write a novel.


What do you think? If you’ve come to a decision already, what led you there?


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