In recent months my physiotherapist listened to me talk about my upcoming book, Edges of Truth, with interest. “I should write my story,” she said. She knows little about writing for publication and her keyboard skills are barely adequate for her job, but she has led an exciting life. “I’ve been to Antarctica,” she said. “I’ve biked along the western coast of the US and in South America. My children don’t know those stories. They need to know.”
I agreed with her. She, like many others, have an important story to tell, but don’t know where to begin. When most people think about writing their life’s story, they imagine publishing their autobiography as a print book. That possibility seems too daunting, so they give up and do nothing. Thankfully today we have more options for telling our story than ever before. With Christmas three months away, maybe you should consider beginning now to write your story for Christmas.
Where do I begin?
Find the format that best suits you and your story. Here are some things to consider before you get started:
- Who is your audience? Are you mainly interested in writing your story for your family, or does the story have broader appeal?
- How long is your story? Would you like to zero in on a few incidents of your life that you could tell in a few thousand words, or do you want to relate details from your whole life?
- Do you have a lot of great photos that go with your story?
- Have you polished the craft of writing to the point you are ready to write for publication?
- Is your story quite similar to many other stories that have already been published? Will your story help other readers, or would it only be interesting to people who know you?
Writing my story for my family.
If your main reason for wanting to tell your story is for a family record or keepsake, consider one of these formats:
- Compact Disc. This may not sound exciting at first glance, but making a CD of your story has great advantages. It costs almost nothing. You can write as much as you want and add all kinds of files and photos. You can distribute it to all your family members. This may inspire them to write their own stories and add their own photos to the CD. It takes very little storage and can be changed or added to at any time. As technology changes it can be changed to different formats.
- Memory book. If you want a decorative keepsake that looks great on a coffee table consider making a scrapbook or create a photo book from digital photos.
- Consult a printer about options for printing and binding a small number of print books.
Writing my story for publication.
If you believe your story has wide appeal and would help other readers, you might want to consider writing it for publication. If your writing skills have not been honed to the level of writing for freelance publication, you may need to find a writer who can write your story. If you have one main incident to tell, you could write an article and submit it to a magazine or Sunday School take-home paper or online publication. Study my writing tips to see how to get started.
If you feel you have lots of little things to say, things that you’ve learned through incidents in your life, you might want to start your own blog.
If you are truly considering writing your whole life’s story, or a big part of it, for publication for a wide audience, consider these questions:
- Does my life story have strong elements that fit into a plot line to make my story as compelling reading as a novel? You might want to read Plot and Structure by James Scott Bell before you answer this.
- Would I do better to take some components from my life and weave them into a fictional story?
- Do I have the writing ability to write a compelling book? Have I published articles or smaller pieces and honed my craft?
- Am I willing to commit a year or two of my life to serious work in structuring my life story?
- Do I have what it takes to promote and sell my book when it is finished?
If you can answer “yes” to all these questions, you may be ready to write and publish your life story. I have written articles about events in my life that have take-away value for readers, but I know I could never sell my own life’s story. When I heard Mary Weaver’s story, I knew that was a story worth telling in book form. Only truly exceptional stories will sell to a broad audience.
I hope these options encourage you to write your story. Maybe your realize your life’s story doesn’t merit a book-length biography, but you see that other options might work well for you. Find a format that works for you and then surprise your family with it this Christmas. You’ll be giving them a piece of yourself that will last for many years.
[Image by Deposit Photos/9yulia-drozdova.]