“I want to write my life story, but I don’t know where to start.”
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard this statement. Many people have a story to tell. It doesn’t matter if that story will never be on the New York Times best seller list. Maybe it’s a story that is only to be shared with family and friends, but it is important to the author just the same. If you are one of those people that wants to write your life’s story, but don’t know where to begin, keep reading to learn some tips on how to go about it.
1. Think about who is going to read your story
If you are just writing for your family, that story might be different than if you were writing your story to be read by the general public. Think about whether or not you want to change people’s names. If your life was a harsh one you may not want to include the real names of the people involved. You may also want to consider whether your life story could be written as fiction. There’s an old adage that “real life is better than fiction.” Maybe your true story could be written in fiction form making it more saleable for mass market.
2. Just start writing
Write down everything you can think of that you want to include in your life story. At this point the order doesn’t necessarily matter; getting the memories and the information down does.
3. Write the Scenes of Your Life
Write scenes of your life that you want to include in your story on different sheets of paper or index cards. This is one place I recommend using the old-fashioned way of writing by using pen and paper. Since all of your scenes are written out separately, you can later rearrange them into an order that that is appropriate for your book.
4. Decide How to Organize Your Story
Do you want to tell it in chronological order? Do you want to focus on one aspect of your life? Do you want to go back and forth between “the old days” and the present time? Once you decide on your order, then you can go back and rearrange what you have already written.
5. Choose a Theme
Is there something you want to enlighten people about? Perhaps your family owned a farm or a restaurant and you want to share your experiences through that.
6. Use Friends and Family
While you might not remember every detail about a certain event, I guarantee someone who was there does remember. Asking family and friends for ideas or details of a certain situation can give you a completely different perspective of the event or time in your life. That perspective might prove to be invaluable in your writing. Be prepared; once you get a group of family and friends together to reminisce, you will be shocked at how quickly the ideas come and how one idea can spark another and another and another.
7. Use Photos to Jog Your Memories
Sort through old pictures. These can help you remember little vignettes in your life or help to provide details about both people and settings.
8. Add a Range of Emotions
Don’t let your entire story be depressing. Even if your story was not a fairy tale, make sure to include some bright spots of hope or humor.
9. Use Audio or Video to Record Your Memories
Not necessarily a writer, but still want to record your story somehow? Don’t think that there’s no hope for you. Consider making audio or video recordings. Audio recordings can be especially helpful. You can take audio recordings to a writer/transcriptionist who can then type out your story in a logical order. Working closely with a writer as you verbally record your stories can be an alternative when you feel you are too close to the story.
10. Enjoy Therapeutic Writing
It’s possible that writing your life story could be therapeutic, offering closure on some not so bright spots of your personal history along with emotional and psychological healing. Maybe your life was just a circus act from the beginning and is funny. If writing your life story touches you while you are writing it, think about all the people you can touch when they read it.
About the author:
Ruth O’Neil has been a freelance writer for more than 20 years, publishing hundreds of articles in dozens of publications. Her first novel Come Eat at My Table came out earlier this year. Her second is on its way. When she’s not writing, Ruth spends her time quilting, reading, scrapbooking, camping and hiking with her family. Visit her blog at http://www.ruths-real-life.blogspot.com or website at http://ruthoneil.weebly.com.
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