How long will it take to write your memoir?

memoir writing Apr 05, 2022

If you’re contemplating writing a memoir, you might be wondering “How long will it take?” Roll your eyes if anyone tries to give you a definitive answer. There’s so much variation in the writing process, and then there’s the path to publication, another journey altogether.

Here's my memoir timeline, but yours may look totally different, and that's okay.

  • 2018 - 2019: 1st draft
  • 2019: Revision and beta readers
  • Early 2020: Thought I was ready to query. A book coach told me I wasn’t. “You don’t know what your book is about yet.” Ouch. I took a break. Thought about writing another book. Ate a lot of sourdough bread and drank a lot of wine.
  • Summer 2020: The memoir wouldn’t leave me alone. I tackled another revision.
  • Winter 2021: Drafted a proposal and query letter. Surely my manuscript was ready now!
  • Spring 2021: Queried agents. Received a few polite nos and mostly silence. Had another book coach review my query and proposal. She found some fatal flaws. Discussed tweaking the manuscript or doing a major revision. Did not want to do a major revision. Finally acknowledged that’s what it would take.
  • Summer 2021 - Early Winter 2022: Executed a major revision. Had another book coach do a fresh read. She loved it! Polished the manuscript and updated the proposal and query. My book coach and I put together a small list of agents and small presses to query.
  • February 2022: Querying again. Silence and a few nos.
  • March 3, 2022: Before lunch, sent a query to a university press. An email was waiting for me when I returned from lunch! They wanted to see my memoir proposal! I couldn’t believe it! AND I was so happy I had a memoir proposal. I sent the proposal a few days later.
  • March 24, 2022: Email from the editor saying they would “love” to read my manuscript. Chills!
  • April 1, 2022: I sent the manuscript and asked all my writing peeps for good vibes. And then the waiting began.

I don’t know how long it will take for the editor to get back to me, and of course, I don’t know what he’ll say when he does. I’ll keep querying agents and other presses while I wait. I’m also considering publishing with a hybrid press.

It’s been a long and winding journey and it isn’t over yet. But like I tell my book coaching clients, I’m taking a moment to celebrate where I am.

Here are two things I know:

  1. Taking time upfront to get clear on your story fundamentals—why you are writing, the main point you want to make, who you are writing for, and how your memoir will fit into the marketplace—will SAVE you tons of time and will help you AVOID the frustration of ending up with an unfocused first draft. Interested in hearing more? Tell me where you are in your memoir writing journey. 
  2. My story matters. My book will get published—and when it does, it will change lives. That’s what’s been keeping me going.

My story matters—and so does yours.


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