William Hammett, Independent Ghostwriter

Memoir Inspiration and Preparation


Memoir Inspiration

Your ghostwriter will help you in executing voice, organization, and pace. But if you tell him or her that you were inspired by a particular memoir, it will give the ghost a better idea of how to translate your vision into a published book.

The following are some examples of famous memoirs that have spurred people to put their own lives into print.

  • Night by Elie Wiesel
  • The Glass Castle by Jeanette Walls
  • Out of Africa by Karen Blixen
  • Kitchen Confidential by Anthony Bourdain
  • Tuesdays with Morrie by Mitch Albom
  • Chronicles by Bob Dylan
  • Walden by Henry David Thoreau
  • Crazy Brave by Joy Harjo
  • Girl, Interrupted by Susanna Kaysen
  • October Sky by Homer H. Hickham, Jr.
  • See No Evil by Robert Baer
  • Hillbilly Elegy by J.D. Vance
  • The Seven Story Mountain by Thomas Merton

You may already have a crystal clear idea of how you want your story to read, but sampling other memoirs will still give you valuable insight into what elevates a personal story to greatness.

Memoir Preparation

Many people simply dictate their stories to a ghostwriter over the phone or in person. This is an important part of the memoir process and helps a ghostwriter to capture a person's narrative voice – the cadence and rhythms of speech that make the story authentic and compelling, as well as the emotional content of a story or the client's unique personality.

It's preferable, however, to jot down your thoughts and recollections in preparation for writing your memoir before you even contact a ghost. It's not mandatory, of course, nor do your notes have to be complete. They can be snippets or bullet points of what you want to cover or what you believe to be most important about your life.

You don't have to create a formal document, merely write or type what comes to mind. It doesn't have to be grammatical or written in paragraphs. The ghostwriter will handle the content and its organization once he gets the necessary information.

Creating source material will help a ghostwriter conduct better interviews and know what questions to ask. Most people relate material in a non-chronological fashion, creating the need at a later date to revise chapters or insert various information or events that were originally omitted. Providing written source material helps frame the narrative structure of a book from its inception.

A little forethought can ensure that your memoir will contain all of the relevant information that has inspired you to write the book in the first place. Just a few minutes a day will give you a leg-up in starting the book you've dreamed of.

The exception is using long, technical research documents or court testimony. People on the witness stand don't speak in grammatical sentences, and readers don't want to plow through a hundred pages of boring, unintelligible statements. Mainstream publishers do not use court testimony.


Isabel Allende by Marlene Vicente, Madrid June 11, 2011

 William Hammett



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