Writing, Critique Partnerships and Other Stories

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Feb 26, 2020

Outline Your Memoir in One Day

By Imara Moses

When I finally decided to sit down and write my memoir, the idea of writing a book had been floating around in my head for a while.  Because I had been mulling over what I wanted my book to be about for some time, it only took one afternoon to write my outline. 
I have a scientific writing background, so I knew I would not be able to write a good book without first having a rough sketch of what I wanted to share.  The outline is critical to writing a book because it prevents it from being a series of random thoughts scrawled all over paper without any direction. 

For me, the process looked like this:
1.    What theme do I want to share with my readers?
Answer: The pain of an abusive marriage and how I overcame it.

2.    What title conveys that the most?
Answer: Lift Him Up: A Single Mother’s Memoir of Betrayal, Heartbreak, and Triumph.

3.    What are the major periods of my life that I want to share in my book?
Answer: My high school years, meeting my ex-husband, completing medical school, the abusive episodes throughout the marriage, receiving help in the form of therapy, my experiences at Harvard, and the divorce process.

·      Each major period formed a chapter of my book
·      I put these periods in chronological order, although many memoirists use flashbacks.

4.    For each major scene, choose a chapter title that captures the essence of the chapter.
·      For instance, the one that describes my shotgun wedding is titled “What are We Doing?”

5.    Once I have the title of the book and the chapters outlined, I outline each individual chapter.
·      The individual chapter outlines do not need to be extravagant.
Example: When I discussed my experiences in the Air Force and my work as a Flight Surgeon, I started by explaining why I chose to join the Air Force, what boot camp was like, and the lessons I learned on leadership and making hard decisions.  These themes are interwoven within the book’s overarching theme of overcoming.

As I started writing the book, I realized that certain stories I originally outlined did not need to be included, and detracted from the overall flow of the book. For instance, I initially was going to describe my close group of friends in high school. As the memoir developed, I realized that including this information wouldn’t add depth or additional meaning to my story so I decided to leave it out. This is fine. You want to start with a large rough sketch that can be shaven down a bit so that by the end of the writing and editing process, you have a great final version of your book.



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About the Author: Dr. Imara Moses
Dr. Imara Moses is the survivor of an abusive marriage. Dr. Moses knows first-hand how negative emotions can imprison victims and prevent them from moving forward.  She has experienced the hatred, bitterness, resentment, anger, and depression that renders many single-parents incapable of providing the nurturing environment their children need to flourish.
After ending her toxic marriage, Dr. Moses made major changes to her life view and dedicated herself to the upliftment of her children while breaking the generational cycles of familial destruction and abuse.  She has created a life where her children thrive, reversed the negative effects of abuse, and cleared the way for a dynamic new legacy to form.  Dr. Moses highlights her journey in her upcoming book, Lift Him Up: A Single Mother’s Memoir of Heartbreak, Betrayal, and Triumph.