When you are writing a story that takes place over a long period of time, be sure to let the reader know the timeline. They need to know when things are happening, how much time has passed, and what led up to the event. Don’t let the reader figure it out for herself. That’s too much work for the reader. Let the story bring her along in the flow of the story with a sense of time moving over skipped periods. You can start a list of transitional phrases to help the reader move smoothly to a new time. Add to the list as you think of more:
As time passed by I realized..
Once I realized ___, I could settle into __
For awhile, ..
Content to let my days be filled with__, I let time..
I don’t know where the years went, but they flew..
I looked in the mirror and realized..
I had come to an awareness slowly that ..
Once I realized__ I let the autumn turn to winter without..
Seasons. They were hungry for ..
Night and day for two years I..
It was awhile before I could let myself know.. Matter of fact, it was years.
Remember that a memoir is not a life story. Your life story is an autobiography and follows different structural rules. A memoir is an important period in your life which may be a year or three, or even a week. It is an heightened experience that you feel was very important to you and caused a turn around in your life. Examples are ending or starting a surprising relationship, stopping an addiction or climbing a mountain or the time you were lost in the woods. It can also be a week with a circus, a day with a famous person (if you have enough material) , a time when you first met your birth mother or realized your sexual orientation was not what you had thought. It’s usually something others would find interesting because it is so unusual or would find benefit from because it is happening to them such as dealing with a serious illness and surviving well.
All in all, the reader wants to be with you and your story so be sure to help them out by writing with a clear sense of time and it’s passing.