Worried About Writing Your Memoir?

Will I be sued?Many writers want to share their memoirs; maybe with just their children or grandchildren or maybe with the world. But what if someone they write about sues them? Should I be candid about my abusive father or my alcoholic mother? Will my sister take offense if I reveal her stay in rehab?

In a workshop I attended years ago, I listened to an editor give some guidelines on how to limit your liability when writing a memoir. Here are a few of her suggestions:

  1. Change the names or other identifying details
  2. Let the people you’re writing about read what you’ve written and get their reaction upfront
  3. Understand what you have to lose – what’s the worst thing that could happen and could you handle it?
  4. Write the real story, read it and edit out what you’re most worried about
  5. If you’re really concerned, hire an attorney to vet your manuscript and give you advice.

Bottom line, you don’t hear of many memoir cases going to court, because there aren’t many. Maybe because the person claiming to be identified would have to admit to whatever was written about him/her. Whatever the reason, if you have a story longing to be told don’t let the fear of being sued stop you from writing it.


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