What Type of Memoir Writer Are You?

Type of Memoir Writer Marcie Keithley

“Knowing yourself is the beginning of all wisdom.” 


Recently, I wrote about 5 Memoirs You Must Read in 2019. While each one of these books means something important to me, I wanted to do a special blog post today. As a writer I know all about the hard work and long hours that go into writing a book. Not to mention the soul-searching self-discovery that’s involved.

However, I hear from friends and on social media people’s concerns about not having a story to share. Knowing that this is a concern for many, I wrote a post outlining some writing prompts to help get the creativity flowing. There was even that one post about how writing helps you heal from the negative feelings you may be holding onto. But I get it. That still may not be enough to convince you to start writing.

We All Have Different Styles

Because of my own personal experience, I chose to focus my memoir on a life-changing series of events that came to a head towards the end of my dog Dreyfus’ life. Your story won’t look like mine. It’s not supposed to. Your life and the events that lead up to that moment that changed everything follow a different storyline with different players and places.

Which is why today we’re discussing the different types of memoirs. Maybe you’ll see your own story in one of these and be inspired to keep writing. My hope is to continue to encourage you to use writing as a form of self-healing and expression.

Best-selling Memoirs

According to Louisa Deasey, there are three types of best-selling memoirs. Keep in mind, that to heal you don’t need to create a best-seller. However, it might offer some reassurance if you see your own past in any one of these memoir types:

  1. The first type is the Redemption Memoir which Louisa describes as “a memoir of how you overcame any adversity, big or small.”
  2. The second type she calls the Walking Away from It All Memoir. This, she says, is “a memoir of how you walked away from a certain kind of life (a job, a relationship, a partying lifestyle, a place), and moved into a completely new way of being.”
  3. The third is the You Are Not Alone Memoir. This is almost a self-help style memoir that “dives into what happens when we fail or go through a typically human (universal) experience.”

I think you go through many different ideas when creating a memoir. However, as you go through the writing process you will find that you lean towards one type of writing style versus another. While Louisa mentions what she considers to be best-selling memoirs, there are other types out there that have also seen success.

Memoir Styles You May Write In

Melissa G. Wilson, on the other hand lists a series of seven different memoir types. While she doesn’t discuss whether they will be best-sellers or not, she does talk about how each style reaches different readers.

  1. The first Melissa mentions is the Confessional Memoir. This is a memoir that “focuses on what the writer feels like are the wrong actions or decisions they took in life.”
  2. The second is a Personal Memoir which is described as “a glimpse at the writer’s personal life in a certain segment of time.”
  3. The third is the Portrait Memoir. Not to be confused with a dairy narrative, this is a memoir “based on the experiences or events of a person who has documented them thoroughly in some way.”
  4. Fourth is the Professional Memoir. This is the memoir you would read from a celebrated professional such as a politician. Melissa also says that this type of memoir could be used “for the purpose of forming a historical record of events.”
  5. The fifth memoir on the list she defines as the Public Memoir or what is also known as the Celebrity Memoir. These are the memoirs written by celebrities or figures in the public eye.
  6. The sixth memoir is the Transformational Memoir. According to Melissa, this is the type of memoir you’re probably most familiar with. Memoirs in this category are made up of “coming of age memoirs, overcoming addictions or challenging circumstances, or embracing religion or spirituality and the changes that decision helped to create.”
  7. The last of the memoirs are the Travel Memoirs. These are the adventure-style memoirs following a “personal situation and whatever challenges that may have been faced and overcome.”

Do any of these memoir styles sound familiar?

Maybe you’ve seen yourself and your story in one of these types. Even if you don’t see your memoir type listed, don’t worry. Like each life, every memoir is unique. To me, that’s just another reason to write it. If you want to know more about each of the memoir types listed above, make sure you check out the full blog posts.

I’d love to hear about what you’re working on. Be sure to leave a comment or ask a question below. I always look forward to hearing from you!

The Shoebox Effect is more than a memoir…it’s a movement.”

– Marcie Keithley

What’s in YOUR Shoebox?

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