Thousands of blog posts explain how to write memoirs. The most repeated suggestion offered is to utilize memory triggers when writing life stories. Five resources helped me write my latest book From Metal to Rhinestones: A Quest for the Crown. The sources supplied many of the stories my heart longed to revisit and helped me successfully write the first draft of my book.
For the most part, I had a wealth of photos to trigger my memory when writing my life story. It is interesting that some events had fewer pictures than others. Considering that my pageant adventure began in the film camera days, I'm not surprised that I did not have more photos. I'm thankful for what I do have. The pictures helped me remember much.
Photos helped me remember the materials and colors of my evening gowns and swimsuits. The lack of photos for certain things, like my interview dresses, point to our oversight of that competitive category. Photos helped me remember my progress in makeup and hair styles. I could also remember places thanks to these images. When I remember places, I remember sights, sounds, conversations, and people. Having pictures to help guide my writing made the process much easier than retrieving from memory alone.
2. Paper Files
Pageant competitions produced numerous documents and books in addition to photos. My mother bought at and saved program books from each event where I competed. Mother also preserved her handwritten record of my answers for the applications and fact sheets submitted to the judges. I saved notes that pageant friends sent me, including a photo of a beauty queen from littlest pageant boyfriend. Each of these paper files unlocked stories that I don't reflect upon often. Some records add depth to my story by supply names and awards presented to those I with whom I competed. Others files reminded me of the pageant entry fees and the names of my sponsors. Together with the photos, my mind was rapidly recalling minor details of my pageant days.
3. Old Scrapbooks
About ten years ago, I began organizing my photos and paper files into paper scrapbooks. I typed the text that would accompany these items on page layouts. I had emailed my journaling to my mother for her feedback. My mom said I was much too critical in the text for those scrapbooks. It's a good thing I had waited another ten years before I wrote more about those experiences. The added distance from my pageant days made for a more merciful story. However, had I started this project sooner, my mother would have been alive to offer more depth to the memories I have written.
Recording snippets of memories is an essential step to writing a life story or autobiography. One doesn't need a scrapbook before they write their life story. My collection of fragments gave me a head start when trying to turn an assortment of notes and memories into an overall story.
4. Modern Media
The Miss Congeniality movie, released in 2000, was an excellent assistant in writing my pageant story. A few of the scenes in the film were in line with my experiences. Thus, I could build off of the story line to provide reference points for my intended readers. Videos from my competitions are long gone, but the Sandra Bullock movie is easily accessible. If a reader doesn't understand something I'm trying to convey, they can watch the video and gain understanding. As such, I spent less agonizing moments attempting to convey meaning in words. Having a movie, song, or stereotype helped make writing easier.
I know, I know. If you want to know something, we "Google" it these days. It helps to know what we're searching for on the internet. I used Google to find locations of hotels that served as pageant spots, verify spellings of individual names and places, and for words that described the tailoring of my different dresses. Google was also helpful in finding phrases and synonyms that helped me better express my mental images. I can't imagine who folks wrote memoirs in the past without this handy tool.
Using all of these memory sources to supply the stories of my teenage pageant years, I now have a life story I'd love to share with you.
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