A memoir editor elevates “those important moments in time.”
In a previous blog, I discussed the difference between a biography and a memoir. Both are nonfiction accounts from true-life journeys. A biography spans an entire lifetime, while a memoir focuses on a crucial event or series of events.
I expanded on the concept of editing a biography, but glossed over important elements in editing a memoir. This blog post adds to the discussion.
Duties of a Memoir Editor
First, knowing the difference between a biography and memoir is crucial. The word memoir derives as follows: < French mémoire < Latin memoria.
Thus, memoirs capture memories. They are generally not birth-to-death books. Rather, they encompass a specific time within the author’s life. That time frame may vary, however, and a book that is marketed as a memoir may seem closer to a biography. For instance, Educated: A Memoir by Tara Westover is a New York Time’s Bestseller, and spans childhood through adulthood.
Perhaps an author might want to capture his or her adventures while fostering dozens of children, or rescuing hundreds of homeless pets, or serving in a war overseas. Those types of personal accounts make beautiful memoirs, whether they be heart wrenching or heart pounding accounts.
Obviously, a memoir has something to offer. Some authors chronicle an important part of their family’s struggles or victories. Some memoirs are so personal that they are written as heirlooms to pass down through generations. The author may feel that sales and profit are less key factors than preserving a narrative before it is lost to time.
Other memoirs are completely fascinating to the public in general, such as Tara Westover’s memoir noted above. In this case, the memoir was likely written with commercial value in mind.
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