Keep in mind that the desire line can change by the end of the memoir.
For example, a teen author might begin by chronicling the methodical engineering of his own destruction, but end by deciding he wants to live.
The memoir validates your experience and gives meaning to your life; after all, your memories are a treasured journey for others to learn from and enjoy.
It can be a gift to your children, your parents, your friends, your country, and the world.
If that happens, revisit your desire line until a clearer, more action-driven story arc presents itself.
It could also be that you’re having a hard time identifying actions and obstacles because you’re writing a victim book, in which something bad has happened to you, and all you can do is react, rather than act.
This is why it’s such a blow when my daughter’s life falls apart.) Often the real drama of a memoir is in watching the narrator shed beliefs and behaviors that keep him from getting what he wants.
If you can’t come up with a clear list of things you did to get what you wanted—and of obstacles standing in your way—that might be a sign that your book concept is too internal, too talky or too dependent on psychological insights (for instance, realizing that you’re leading the life your dad did, or that you married a woman who’s a lot like your mom).
I put up some strange-looking houses that way, in the form of inert drafts filled with pointless scenes. You learn not to lose the thread of your story by cramming in that happened—the trip to Alaska, the love letters, the musty apartment you rented before you got the house.
I would have saved myself a lot of time if I had drawn an arc. Now I know it’s the emotional framework of a memoir. You no longer waste time writing and rewriting scenes you don’t even need.