Five Things I Learned from Writing the Initial Draft of My Memoir

Red Lanterns against an Old Building Backdrop - Taiwan
5 Things I Learned from Writing a Memoir

***This is another post that was written some time ago [September 22nd, 2015 to be exact] and is only hitting the blogosphere now.  It is amazing how far the book has come since this time last year.***


I don’t mean to toot my own horn, but I am super excited and immensely proud of myself. So proud, that I am happy to share this great news with you. I typed the last words of my memoir yesterday and completed the first draft. I know that it is very rough around the edges and still needs a little work [or maybe a lot], but the initial draft is completed, the words and sentences have been written, and a copy has been printed. My thoughts, experiences, memories, and stories have been carved in stone, nearly ready for the world to read and enjoy.

This has been a very interesting experience for me. I have so much pride and the utmost admiration for the twenty-three year old version of myself, that girl who moved to Taiwan, that it was hard to put into words. Some parts were difficult to write about and I hope I did each and every single experience justice.

I have learned many things along the way – some things more significant and meaningful than others. Some from a writing perspective and some on a more personal level. And I would like to take a moment to reflect and to share with you some of these things that I have learned along the way. I hope that maybe you can also learn something from them or share with me some things that you have learned, as you write [if you do] and/or navigate your way through life.

Like Most Things, Rice Growing takes 'Time' - Taiwan
Writing Style Changes

From a Writing Perspective…..


[1] My writing style and tone seems to have changed and shifted over the course of time [and words and pages]. And my perception of what is good [or not] has also changed as well.

There were some sentences and paragraphs that, when I wrote them, I thought were brilliant. Amazing. Perfect.

But, as time passed, I realized that those were the parts that needed some major revision and re-adjustments.

Why? Because as I started to write more and more, my ‘voice’ and style started to change.

Which, for me is actually okay. Because, that means growth. And in all honesty, change and improvement is always a good thing.

Reliving the Difficult Moments is Hard


On a More Personal Level….

[2] Some parts were more difficult to relive and write about than others

Yes, some things were very difficult to write about, relive, and include. Describing the predicament I found myself in, before I had even set foot in Taiwan, is a good example. The emotions flood back and it feels like I was there in the same situation again, reliving the events and watching them unfold right before my very eyes for the second time.

And then, there are the embarrassing parts, the segments that I would rather forget, the information that exposes how others treated me. I contemplated omitting some of those bittersweet moments, but I knew deep down inside that I couldn’t, for a number of reasons. First, I would personally know that I wasn’t forthcoming, and it is a memoir after all. Second, if I neglected to include this information, I feel that the reader would sense I was holding back and it wouldn’t be fair to the person who took the time to pick up the book. And third, my husband always says ‘If people don’t want to be judged or if they don’t want people to know the truth, then they shouldn’t have said or done what they did in the first place.’

Believe me, I know that my rambling here completely makes no sense right now, but if you read the book, then I think you will know what I mean.

Dragon on a Temple Rooftop - Taiwan
So Much Good


[3] There is so much good in the world [and especially in Taiwan]

From the moment I stepped foot off the plane in Taiwan, I knew that the people here were something special. They welcomed me with open arms. It is hard to believe the extent that Taiwanese people went to in order to make me feel at home.

There are so many examples in my book, but there is one in particular that stands out. It is something that these people did out of pure kindness. I wrote this in my journal about that night, which was slightly modified to fit the flow of the book.

They showed me a different side to mankind that night. Their kind gesture wasn’t out of obligation. They had no hidden agenda. They did it because they were good people, plain and simple. I interacted with people who, just hours before, had no idea of who I was or where I came from and they, as well as I, had a ball.

Be Brave

[4] Great and amazing things happen when you are brave enough to step out of your comfort zone

I was always the girl that played it safe, and in some ways, I still am that girl.

However, moving to Taiwan and living here my first year meant that I was constantly out of my comfort zone. From the moment I walked out of my apartment each day, my ‘foreign sanctuary’ awaited me and presented me with countless new and amazing experiences.

I did things that I had never dreamed of doing. I no longer let fear stand in the way of trying something different and new. Every day was [and still is] a new and exciting adventure.

We are Responsible for Creating & Shaping Our Own Reality


[5] You are responsible for your own reality

I will always remember the blog post, A Good First Line, by Nicki Chen. This is where she quoted the very beginning sentences of some books.

And that post got me thinking. Is my first sentence good enough?

My answer is that I hope so, because it is a statement that I believe in and live by. They were the very words that made me work hard, that made me take a leap of faith, and that made me move half-way around the world all those years ago.

And those words are – ‘We are responsible for creating and shaping our own reality.’

Will I change it? Maybe, but I doubt it. Because deep down inside, it is a sentence that I really, truly believe in. Plus, I feel it is a perfect summary for the over 100,000 words [give or take a few or a lot when I’m finished editing] of details and events that follow.

If you are a writer, has your writing style ever changed? Do you agree or disagree with any of the points presented? What do you think of my first sentence? [Don’t worry – I can take both good and constructive comments.] 🙂

~~~Title and covered reveal coming soon!!~~~


14 thoughts on “Five Things I Learned from Writing the Initial Draft of My Memoir

  1. Congrats and good luck!

    I wrote many of my now-blog posts as emails years ago. I’m glad I didn’t have blog back then, because many needed overhauls. I think letting your work “get cold” before revising is imperative.

    Every editor and agent says, “Kill your darlings.” But it’s hard to do unless you get some distance!

    My only suggestion on your first line would be to make it a simple sentence. No conjunctions. Subject, verb, object. And if there is any way to introduce the main conflict/ tension/ struggle in the story in that sentence or the first paragraph, don’t keep your readers waiting. 🙂

  2. Thank you, Constance, for sharing the lessons you learned in writing your first draft.

    I’ve never written a memoir, but I can imagine how challenging it is to tell the truth no matter how difficult. Even fiction writing can leave the author feeling naked and afraid.

    As for changes in writing style and tone, I think some change is inevitable. With all the time we put into writing, it would be strange indeed if we didn’t learn and improve. My writing has changed, but it has been a slow process, influenced by my efforts to improve and by what I read and what’s going on in the culture.

  3. Congrats!!! I used to engage a lot in creative writing and even co wrote some books and well as wrote for literary magazines. However if I were to compare my writing style then and now, it would look like someone completely different wrote those articles and chapters from eons ago.

    I think I’ve experienced similar things in Turkey as you have in Taiwan. I’ve become another person when I moved here and I’m completely comfortable with myself now. Moving from London to here was one of the craziest decision I made and I wouldn’t change it for anything in the world. Not anytime soon anyway.

  4. Memoir is much tricker than people realize. And it sounds like yours was a great growing experience, too. How long do you plan to wait before you dig into the second draft? 😛 I think Stephen KIng’s advice was 3 months. Don’t look at the manuscript for THREE months! Good luck!

  5. Hooray for completing that first draft Constance!

    Your comment about the difficulty of reliving/revisiting experiences is one I can relate to. It’s one of the hardest things about writing about your life. But I’ve also found that when something hits me emotionally, I know I’m digging deep enough to get to the truth of the story.

  6. Hooray for completing that first draft Constance!

    Your comment about the difficulty of reliving/revisiting experiences is one I can relate to. It’s one of the hardest things about writing about your life. But I’ve also found that when something hits me emotionally, I know I’m digging deep enough to get to the truth of the story.

  7. Congratulations you finishing it! That’s awesome! I’m trying to get back into posting on my blog but you know can always find me on Instagram and happily, I can find you there, too! Yay! 🙂

  8. ‘If people don’t want to be judged or if they don’t want people to know the truth, then they shouldn’t have said or done what they did in the first place.’ … Too right. Too bloody right. If only everyone understands this. Especially (and more so) all the internet users. Sometimes you might regret saying or doing certain things, but that’s how we learn our lessons. And we can only learn if we acknowledge our mistakes rather than avoid or hide them.

  9. Congratulations Constance! It’s not tooting your own trumpet at all – it’s a huge achievement even to complete a first draft. Sometimes, I pat myself on the back just for managing to finish a blog post nevermind an entire memoir! And i’m sure it’s not easy writing frankly and honestly about all the emotional journeys, embarrassing moments etc so to put them on paper and to talk about them in this way is in itself worth of appraise I think.

  10. Dear Constance:
    You have the courage and bravery, for to re-adapt to the environment and different customs, and I often think this issue is envisaged that very difficult for me, it sounded like starting from scratch, but fortunately, love accompany you overcome all strange.
    I am looking forward to your Memoir.:)

    1. I know I am a little late responding to you comment, but I really do appreciate your kind words. Moving abroad is definitely not for everyone, but if you have a sense of adventure and have the ability to adapt to a new and foreign environment, then it can be a wonderful experience.

      I hope you had an amazing Chinese New Year with your family!! May the Year of the Monkey brings you lots of happiness, great health, and good fortune.

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