Writing your memoir can be a daunting experience, and starting with short memoir stories can be an effective way to get in the groove and build up your memoir-writing muscles.

A Mini Memoir

It’s also easier, and certainly less time-consuming, to write 2500 words than 75 000 words.

However, a memoir short story still needs to contain the same elements as a full-length memoir – essentially, it’s a mini memoir.

It can be anywhere from 1000 to 10 000 words and must have a narrative arc (beginning, middle and end), a hook (the premise that grabs the reader’s attention, usually the first line) and a resolution, which includes some sort of change or development of the main character, which is you.

Great Writing Training

In fiction writing, as I have found out myself, writing short stories is great training for writing novels, and it’s a similar experience in memoir writing.

Having a shorter word count means you learn to be very economical with your word use; to convey meaning and emotion with action, dialogue and short punchy phrases rather than long, detailed descriptions.

These are all important skills for writing a full-length memoir, ensuring that you’re not wandering off track into irrelevant material, and that you’re keeping the reader engaged throughout the book.

Man Sitting Reading Book Short Memoir Stories

What Will I Write About?

You may well be asking this question, as you ponder your memoir short story. Pick an experience you’ve had that incorporates all the above narrative elements.

It doesn’t have to be exciting or dramatic; it can be an ordinary, everyday experience.

It can take place during one day or over weeks or months, and the most essential element is that it changed you in some way – your behaviour, your attitude towards something or someone, your view of the world or your beliefs, your relationship with someone or several people.

What Next?

Once you’ve got the hang of writing memoir short stories, you might like to try your luck with publication. If you can win a prize in a competition and/or have one published in an anthology, you know you’re on the right track. 

Short Memoir Competitions

Short Memoir Prize Fish Publishing

The competition is run annually. It is currently closed for 2024, but will re-open near the end of the year for 2025.

Anthology Personal Memoir Competition

This is a good one to start with – the word limit is 1500. It closes on 31 August 2024.

Tales2Inspire runs regular competitions for short memoir stories to be published in their anthologies. The theme for the latest one is Happiness and it closes on 31 August 2024.

Writing site Reedsy provides a list of Best Memoir Writing Contests in 2024

There are many opportunities to enter short memoir stories in these contests, and even though some of them have already closed for this year, you will find others in the list that are still open.

Personal Essays

If you’re not keen on competitions, there are many publications that invite year-round submissions for personal essays.

Personal essays are very similar to short memoir stories. Both are a ‘slice of life’, but essays usually refer to that event in the context of broader social issues, or particular philosophies, values and beliefs.

In other words, the writer is relating their experiences to the collective experiences of mankind in general.

Here’s an example of a well-written personal essay. The Wild Sublime Body by Melissa Febos.

If you want to explore essay writing further, here’s a list of 30 publications that you can submit personal essays to – and they even pay you!.

It's All Practice

Even if you don’t want to enter competitions or write personal essays, writing memoir short stories is a great learning tool. And you can even write your entire memoir as a series of short stories or essays.

However, you still need to have an overarching theme and a way of linking the stories to each other to form a cohesive narrative, so that it’s not just a disparate collection of unrelated stories.

Short Story Memoirs

Here are some memoirs that have been written as a series of essays or short stories.
Managing Expectations - A Memoir in Essays by Minnie Driver.

Scenes from the life of actor Minnie Driver, and how things not working out, actually caused them to work out in the end.

More about this book in my blog post How Many Ways Can You Write A Memoir?

I Miss You When I Blink: Essays by Mary Laura Philpott.

Thoughtful and humorous observations on the conflicting pressures of modern womanhood.

I Am, I Am, I Am by Maggie O’Farrell.

The stories of the author’s 17 brushes with death.

How Can I Help You?

If you’d like to ask me about writing your memoir for you, I’d love to chat to you about it.
Click on the button below to put in your name and email address, and I’ll reply as soon as possible.

Short Memoir Stories Pinterest

Header and Pinterest Image by Duckleap from Pixabay

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