Your Life’s Story: How to Write a Book About Your Life
And it’s because your life’s story can do a world of good. Through your words, you have the opportunity to inspire and help others. Regardless of our different life experiences, anyone can relate to those larger themes of navigating through life and reaching a goal.
Chances are, you’ve been told before that you should write a book about your life. But it can be difficult to put something so personal – namely, your life story – into words. All writers struggle when it comes to writing a book. Especially when it comes to a true story, and something as personal as writing about your life.
But there are steps you can take to progress from that very first page to a finished and published book that you’ll be proud of. Read on to uncover what will help you move forward, and to find out how to write a book about your life.
Your life story isn’t just a checklist of your various experiences. It needs to have an underlying theme or message that allows your story to progress. Plus a theme allows all those little chapters of your life to tie in neatly together.
Your theme doesn’t have to be a specific experience, either, such as one particular obstacle you had to overcome. Instead, you are looking for a broader message that will help the reader understand your point of view, and find inspiration of their own.
What do you want your audience to learn from your life story? What values or advice can they garner from your memoir, and your experiences? Consider this big and broad idea carefully. And don’t start writing until you have your theme and your larger goals in mind.
An outline is essential for writing a book that is fluid and which progresses seamlessly from one chapter to the next. And in order to have an outline, you need to take stock of your memories and determine which ones are essential to your story. You don’t have to craft a perfect, completed outline to get started, either. Just jotting down the major experiences you want to include, as well as a rough timeline, will give you an outline for your your book.
Here are just a few things to consider when making a game plan for mapping out your memories.
By creating a rough draft of the memories and pieces of life that are relevant to your story, (all while keeping your theme in mind), you can avoid writer’s block well before you start writing your book.
Obviously the theme of your book is you and your life story, but remember that no one goes through life alone.
For any book to be engaging, (even a personal memoir), you need to have a cast of supporting characters who are just as vibrant and interesting as yourself.
So start considering the people in your life who have helped shaped your own story, and how they fit into your book. When considering your “supporting characters,” keep the following tips in mind:
You don’t just want to have static characters without a background or a view of their own. Fleshed-out characters that come alive are the best way to engage readers, and will enrich your story.
Everyone’s own viewpoint is wholly unique, so think about the perspectives of other people in your life, and what makes them different from yours. Do they have a different view of the same situation? Did they agree or disagree with your perspective? Take a step back and consider how your characters are different from you and include these unique perspectives in your story.
A supporting character may have been instrumental in just one or two moments in your life, but if your readers care about your characters, they’ll want to know their stories as well. Give all of your characters a complete and satisfying arc, so you don’t leave them – or your readers – behind.
Chances are that as you dive into the details, your characters will be recognized by the real people in your life who they represent. Make sure that you let your loved ones know beforehand that you are sharing your story as well as theirs. So, get their permission to move forward if key details are revealed. When in doubt, never use real names, and change a few little things, (like physical descriptions, or specific places or events), to keep their identities hidden.
You have your story and your theme. You have your outline of essential life experiences and events to include, and you have your cast of characters who will add extra vibrancy to your book.
Finding a voice can be difficult for even the most experienced authors. Your voice is your writing style, and your signature, and it’s what will set your story apart from countless other memoirs on the shelves.
Most importantly, your voice needs to be consistent from your first page to your last. A style that is altered throughout a book can be jarring to readers, and can take your audience out of the moment, and out of your story.
So make sure your style is well defined and unique before you start writing. To help find your specific voice, you can try any of the following:
Free writing is an exercise that many authors find useful when they are feeling stuck. Essentially, all you need to do is to sit down and start writing. Don’t think about topics, or ideas, or details – just write and see what flows out of your imagination. This will give you a good idea of what your natural writing style is like.
A diary is a great way to record experiences and impressions that matter. Best of all, by jotting down your thoughts on a regular basis, you can go back and review how you felt about a certain situation or experience in the moment, and compare it to how you feel now.
Before you start diving into your long memoir, try jotting down a few short stories first to flesh out your voice and your writing style. You can then ask friends and critics to take a look at your work to garner feedback, and to figure out the best way to proceed.
Writing a book of any length is a daunting task, and this is especially true when it comes to a full-length work that outlines your personal life story. So throughout the writing process, keep the fundamentals of any good story at the front of your mind to ensure that you stay on track.
You don’t have to spell out your entire story in your introduction, but you do need to grab the reader’s attention and hint at what’s to come.
Your story’s progression.
Regardless of whether you tell a linear story or jump from moment to moment, it’s essential that your work has a natural flow from start to finish
Your characters are featured heavily throughout your book, so ensure that their stories resonate and progress as well.
No matter how your story starts or end, always keep your theme in mind, and keep an overall arc that shows real progression.
Your conclusion hammers home your theme, and is the last words your audience will read, so you want to ensure that they feel inspired, uplifted, and connected to your words! Regardless of whether you wrap up your story neatly or leave your readers wanting more, your conclusion is just as important as everything that came before.
One of the hardest aspects of writing your story is diving into memories and experiences you would rather leave behind. It’s understandable that you’d like to forget about the challenges, the drama, and those moments of regret, but these are all universal experiences and will endear you to your readers!
So when you are writing your memoir, don’t skip the hard stuff. Be honest, and be vulnerable, and don’t be afraid to share your flaws. Nobody is perfect, and your readers will be able to relate to your story more if they see that you are a real person and a human with faults, just like everybody else.
One mistake that many new authors make is that they tell their feelings and impressions instead of simply demonstrating them and allowing the audience to make their own conclusions.
Keep an eye on your book throughout the writing process, and watch out for the overuse of phrases such as “I felt,” “I thought,” “I believed,” etc. You don’t need to share your exact impressions for every memory or situation. Instead, just simply describe what happened, and allow your audience to fill in the blanks.
No one wants to read a memoir that sounds like a text book. So, infuse your story with your own personality! Be funny, be sarcastic, be judgmental, be optimistic, be pessimistic, or be whatever defines you as an author, and as a person. By being true to your personality, you’ll also have an easier time throughout the writing process – from sharing those difficult life experiences, to helping your audience understand your point of view.
New authors have a myriad of challenges to overcome, and this is especially true for a project that’s as ambitious and as personal as putting your life into a book.
So ask for help! An exceptional writing or book coach can help you flesh out your story from start to finish, and can be an instrumental guide through every step of the process. They can even help you publish your book, and ensure that it reaches the largest audience possible!
You may also want to ask for feedback from the people you trust along the way – especially if they are familiar with your story, and your experiences. Having an outside perspective that’s familiar with you and your life can be instrumental in ensuring that your book conveys your message.
Ready to get writing? I’m here to help!
I’ve helped countless writers just like you put their incredible stories to paper, and create a finished book that inspires readers all around the globe. From brand new writers to seasoned authors who are having trouble sharing their own personal story, I’m all too familiar with the challenges that authors of all varieties face, and can help with every hurdle along the way.
Are you ready to make an impact? Then let’s get started! We’ll work together to transform your story into an incredible piece of literature as your legacy for years to come.
Do you prefer in-person training and collaboration to learn how to author and publish a book? Schedule your visit to meet us in Florida in January 2020 for Book Bound By The Sea. You’ll learn everything you need to become a published author, plus make a new network of authors for ongoing support! And you will definitely leave knowing how to write a book about your life.
Join the January Book Bound By The Sea Workshop here. I look forward to seeing you there!