Writing a Memoir: Know Your Story

When writing a memoir, it’s important to stick to one subject and one time period, then really focus on that. If your book is too general, it won’t make for a good read.

A good friend, who attends many writer’s conferences, teeming with agents and publishers, recently told me, “If a writer goes into a pitch with: ‘Hey, my book is about my life in the field of education,’ the agent is going to glaze over and start thinking about the conference lunch buffet. It’s way too general. No, it’s better to state the book’s focus upfront.”

So true! I would also add that you should know the purpose of your story. After all, that will help you focus and know your story.

Know your story

The first step when writing your memoir is to decide what you’re writing about. In the example above, perhaps you are a high-school teacher in the inner city and you’re writing to encourage parents to be more active with their child’s education. If that’s your purpose, tell that story. It’s specific, not general.

If your own educational path helps to illustrate your book’s purpose, by all means share it. You can do so with flashbacks or by starting the book at that period, if there is enough material to carry the story forward. Otherwise, skip it. For example, if you had supportive parents and went to expensive prep schools and Harvard, it just might not fit into this book (about working with inner city kids).

It would probably make more sense to open your memoir with a particular high school class and finish with their graduation. Include various gnarly parent teacher conference meetings that show what you wish to demonstrate and conclude with a result, one way or another.

Pick a lane and stick to it.

Define your reader

In the above example, your reader would probably be parents of high school students. Perhaps yours is a cautionary tale, warning parents of the dangers of leaving their children’s education solely in the hands of the school system. If that’s the case your book might span two decades, showing your breadth of experience and many examples of neglect with final resolutions that all exemplify the problem.

Or maybe you want to show how one parent got it right. Perhaps that one child made it out of the ghetto and into the sunlight. In that case, your story might just span one year, showing how that mom and dad took a strong interest in little Johnny’s education, while other parents failed to do so, and their children floundered.

Now, your reader might be the school administrative staff. If that is the case, your book would have a very different feel! Is this a David vs Goliath theme, concluding with your victorious battle to make improvements within the school system? The point might be to help others forge an improvement in a system that can seem impossible to penetrate.

We just discussed three versions of one life story. You see how these three books would be very different. It’s the same life, told through different lenses. Each story would be shared with your voice but would make the reader feel and experience very different things.

Pick your reader and write to them.

This is your life! You get to tell the story you wish to tell. You probably have a few books within you. Select one and start writing! And if you need help, please contact me.

If you have any questions regarding pricing, please check out my article about how much ghostwriters charge.

If you’d like to read more articles about memoirs, please check these out:

Memoir or Autobiography

How to Write Your Memoir

What are Good Memoir Themes?

Memoir or Autobiography?

Many people have something worthwhile to write. Their hard-won life lessons and perseverance can both inspire and instruct others. And let’s face it, their lives just make for an interesting read! If this describes your life, it might be time to consider writing a book to capture your personal story.

If you’re reading this and you’ve been fortunate enough (and skilled enough) to have climbed out of a gnarly hole and succeed in life, you really owe it to the world to share your story one way or another. People really need to hear about your journey and understand the steps you took to make it.

How do you tell this story? Well, you have a few choices. There are three basic genres for such a project: biography, autobiography and memoir.

An Autobiography or a Biography

We have all seen the biography or autobiography section in a library. These works are somewhat formal efforts to document the lives of notable people. These books proceed in a linear and orderly fashion through the life of the subject, cataloging their existence for the reader. It’s extremely accurate and factual.

If that description sounds a bit dry, that’s because the end product often is. After all, how many of us relished reading the biography or autobiography of a famous person in school? That’s probably the last one you read, right?

Still, there are times when this medium is correct. When a formal accounting of someone’s life needs to be understood, reach for a biography or autobiography. Get the facts and learn about that person.

A Memoir

A memoir reads more like a novel, written in the first person. It rarely starts with “I was born in New Haven, CT,” but rather sets you at the precipice of a key moment of the author’s life then carries you forward through a segment of the person’s life. You feel the emotions of the author, experience what they experience in a very realistic way.

Memoirs tend to be less formal than an autobiography or biography. Creative license can be exercised with caution. The dialogue you read is never completely accurate but is more of a best guess by the author. The story is still true, but certain elements are often embellished for the sake of the tale.

In addition, a memoir can document a specific event, focusing on the short term, rather than the entire life of the person. For instance, a famous band might focus a memoir around a specific tour or the recording of an album.

A good memoir strives to capture the voice of the author with authenticity. This helps the reader slip into the shoes of the subject, making it easier to live the life they lived for a few hours.

Which Is Best for You?

A person lives one moment after the next, in linear fashion, to be sure, but is that the best way to present the story? Perhaps. And should one include every detail, simply because it happened? Most likely there were a few moments of that life that were crucial, which might illuminate what made that person who they are today. And then there are mundane incidents that no reader needs to hear.

Most often I recommend that my clients write their memoirs rather than their autobiographies. It’s more popular and more riveting for the reader. However, there are times when a biography or autobiography is a better choice. It comes down to preference.

What are your thoughts? Which do you prefer to read?

If you wish to hire a ghostwriter and wonder what the cost might be, please check out my article on the subject.

Tips for Writing Your Memoir

People from all around the world email me each week with a strong desire to write their memoir. I love these requests! Memoirs and autobiographies are so important as they record a slice of history. As readers, we can all really benefit from these books in so many ways. After all, when we are given the freedom to step into another’s shoes for a few moments, we often comprehend life a little better. I know I learn a lot by reading a good memoir.

So, how do you go about writing your life story?

First, understand that a memoir isn’t purely a list of chronological events. I was born… then I ate cereal on the 22nd of September…then I… No, I think we can all agree this is boring. Yes, you will include dates and it’s best not to jump around the time line like a crazed kangaroo on frosted coco sugar squares, but we need to find the right stories to share.

FIND YOUR PURPOSE

Sit down and write out the summaries of important events that brought you to where you are today. Just a few lines that communicate to you. Trace your journey through these key incidents, so that you can lay out the breadcrumbs that others may follow.

As you identify these segments, zero in on the purpose of the scene. If you can’t identify a purpose, toss the scene. Be ruthless about this. Here are a few examples of a good purpose for a scene:

  • Introducing an important character
  • Showing a turning point in some key aspect of your life
  • Demonstrating an error you made
  • Sharing a realization you had

Of course, there are many more, but these give you a few ideas. Now, in contrast, here are some examples of bad purposes, which should be avoided at all costs:

  • I’d really like to get back at so-and-so.
  • I want to brag.
  • I’m angry at the world.

Your reader will be able to discern your purpose easily, and will throw your book away like a hot potato if they sense your motive is self-serving. You have to be honest with yourself here, as there is no fooling your reader. They’ll know.

When done correctly, the various incidents will fit together like an intricate puzzle, a beautiful work of kinetic art. They flow seamlessly. One question that will help you determine whether any particular incident should be included is: Does it help move the story forward? Make sure it does.

DISCOVER YOUR THEMES

As you write the summaries of these scenes down, observe what the emerging themes might be. Consider the lessons you’ve learned, which you wish to impart to your readers. Some examples of powerful and effective messages that I’ve recently seen are:

  • Hard work can overcome many obstacles.
  • Don’t hold on to anger. Forgive.
  • Practical experience is essential for any entrepreneur.
  • Failure is always part of success, if you learn from your mistakes.

It can take time, but you must discover your messages before you can really write a good memoir.

When you sit down to write your chapters, you need to write with honesty. Tap into your emotions and communicate them. Use all your senses to describe what occurred for you in the past. That way your reader will feel what you felt. If you do it correctly, your reader will experience your life as if they had been there alongside you.

Enjoy the process! And if you need help, please don’t hesitate to contact me. To learn more about pricing, here is an article I wrote a while back.

If you liked this article, here are a few additional ones you might find helpful:

Questions for a Ghostwriter

A Ghostwriter’s Fee: How Do They Charge?

Working With A Ghostwriter – What Steps Should You Take?

Record Your Family History for Future Generations

I’ve been a ghostwriter for sixteen years and love what I do. I get to take on many different characters, such as a slothful worker in a futuristic world or a teenage rebel in Communist Hungary. I also get to share important knowledge that was once only known to an elite few.

So, it goes without saying that I’m grateful for the opportunity to help my clients write their books.

By far, the most common request I receive is to help people write their memoirs, their life stories and adventures. Each one is so different, each client with their own voice, message, and purpose for writing their book.

Zeroing in on the purpose

When I interview a potential client, one of my first tasks is to get their true motivation behind the book project. That’s important for a number of reasons.

For one thing, I want to help them achieve their goals. Honestly, my clients’ goals become mine as we form a writing team.

One of my favorite things about being a ghostwriter is that I get to become a family’s historian. It’s an honor to be allowed into each client’s inner circle, so that I can record their stories for future generations—children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren.

Record your memories

Many of my clients have no intention of ever publishing their memoirs. They have me write their stories simply out of fear their memories and lessons-learned will get lost over time, especially when they pass on. It’s a valid concern. Taking the time to write down their words, thoughts, and ideas has been not only important to them but to their families as well.

The advantage of hiring a ghostwriter to record your family history is that should you decide to have it published, you will already have a marketable book, one you can easily self-publish on Amazon.com. There’s no obligation to have the final book published, of course, but why not give yourself the option of sharing your story with others when the time is right?

Your family historian

While hiring a ghostwriter has many advantages, I understand that not everyone can afford the fee. In that case, I recommend appointing someone in your family to be the historian. Once selected, encourage and help that person interview every family member as in-depth as possible.

One tip I can offer the family historian is to capture each person’s exact words. After all, everyone has a different way of expressing themselves. There’s no right or wrong here, just jot down any idioms they might use and make a note of their mannerisms.

Don’t be a grammar police

But whatever you do, don’t correct their grammar. You’re not their seventh grade English teacher. If Grandpa says, “ain’t,” keep it that way. It’s real and it’s him, and will allow future generations a better sense of who he was. Record exactly what each person says as they say it.

Through this journey, you will likely discover that your elders have lived through some amazing times. Perhaps your great uncle fought in a war. Or your grandmother escaped a brutal dictator. Maybe various family members traveled to a variety of exotic locations you never knew about. Whatever the case, you’re bound to learn a lot about your family.

So, when should you start?

Now!

I mean it!

Time isn’t always on your side, especially if members of your family are getting on in years. So now is the perfect opportunity to talk with them. Go for it! And have fun!

If you need help, feel free to contact me. I love helping families record their history! Check out a few of my testimonials.

Additional articles you might find helpful:

How Much Does It Cost To Hire A Ghostwriter?

Seven Tips For Writing A Great Memoir

Questions for a Ghostwriter

A Ghostwriter’s Fee: How Do They Charge?

Working With A Ghostwriter – What Steps Should You Take?

Why You Should Become an Author

After talking to many people, it seems clear that most want to write at least one book within their lifetime. It makes sense! For some, it’s a burning passion that can only be satisfied by completing the goal. Just thinking about the idea or being stuck in the middle of a book project is very unfulfilling, isn’t it?

Most people don’t desire to write a book because they crave fame and fortune. Instead, it’s more like they have something important to say and want to share that message with an audience, whether it be their memoir, useful information in their particular field, or a just fantastical story. Many people have a communication they wish heard.

However, while most everyone has something to say, many don’t have the time or skills necessary to put a book together.

That’s where I come in. As a ghostwriter, it’s my job to do what I can to help.

I speak from experience when I say that you will gain a sense of pride and self-confidence that’s unparalleled when you publish your first book. There’s nothing like seeing your name in print and getting reviews of praise from readers.

If you decide to tackle your book project yourself, my advice is to write from the heart and focus on helping others through your message. Your book will stay with readers long after they’ve finished it, influencing their lives and the lives of those they talk to about your book.

Perhaps you’ve already started on your book, but haven’t been able to finish it due to time constraints or writer’s block. Whatever the reason, don’t give up! You’ll run the risk of leaving an important life goal hanging in limbo, not to mention all the lives that could have been influenced through your message.

If you’re reading my blog, you’re most likely one of the many people who yearn to see their words in print, to see their name on a book cover. If so, then I urge you to find a way to complete your book. Too many people let the dream of being an author go unfulfilled.

I’ve ghostwritten nearly twenty books and have personally authored one, Chess Is Child’s Play – Teaching Techniques That Work. When I receive notes from readers about my book, it brightens my day tremendously. There’s nothing else like it! It’s wonderfully rewarding.

Whether you’re just getting started or already several chapters deep, if you find yourself stuck, let me know! I’d like to help in any way I can, be it offering writing tips and tricks, helping with self-publishing, editing or proofreading, or taking on your book project to free up your time. I have a large network of talented writers, editors, and proofreaders and can help find the perfect match for you.

Feel free to email me any time. I’m here to help!

Additional articles you might find helpful:

How Much Does It Cost To Hire A Ghostwriter?

Should I Write and Publish My Memoir?

Questions for a Ghostwriter

It’s Good Business to Write a Book!

Four Different Ghostwriting Methods

Writing and Publishing Your book

Do you have a great book idea?

Having talked to many people over the last decade or so, I have heard a lot of excellent book concepts. Some clients want to write their exciting life story while others have a good how-to book in mind. And many have a fictional story they want to share.

It seems to me, the place where many of them fall short is the follow-through. Coming up with the idea is one thing, but writing your book then getting it published takes some dedication and know-how.

One of the top questions I routinely receive is, “How do I publish a book?” So, I wanted to address this topic for those of you who may have the same question. Basically, there are two main choices:

  1. Find an agent, who will help you find a publisher.
  2. Self-publish your book.

So, how do you know which is the best option for you?

Well, if your story has been featured heavily in the news for the last few months or you are a top celebrity, you probably want to hire an agent and find a publisher. It won’t be hard and you might get an advance (money paid by the publisher when the contract is signed, which is paid against future sales of your book). They will take over the publishing process for you, so all you really need to worry about is writing your book.

However, if you fall into the category that most people do, where you have an excellent fiction or nonfiction book concept, but you aren’t a household name, you’re probably better off self-publishing your book. You can always try to find a publisher, but they will need to see that you have an excellent marketing plan with a proven track record in sales, before they will invest with you.

Many people don’t realize that publishers expect their authors to sell their own books. Authors need to be out there, very visibly, making an impact with their readers. Action is key.

Today, self-publishing is a good, viable option.

When you self-publish, you will need to market and sell your book on your own, but here are a few tips:

  • Get a website going early on to promote your book.
  • Read up on how to self-publish and market your book.
  • Attach a blog to your website and blog as often as you can.
  • Guest blog on relevant sites.
  • Ask people to review your book and post these on their blogs and Amazon.com.
  • Always keep copies of your book in your car so you can sell it.

It’s also a good plan to set up avenues for selling your book. Some people do a lot of public speaking and lectures while others hold book-signings. There are various options. Get creative with it and enjoy the process!

However, the first step involves actually writing a book. So, what are you waiting for? Get started now!

Additional articles you might find helpful:

How Much Does It Cost To Hire A Ghostwriter?

Should I Write and Publish My Memoir?

Questions for a Ghostwriter

It’s Good Business to Write a Book!

Four Different Ghostwriting Methods

Should I Write and Publish My Memoir?

writing a memoirBeing a ghostwriter, quite a few people have shared their ideas and dreams with me about writing a book. I become their fast confidant, which is a role I enjoy!

Many people who want to share their life story really aren’t sure how to go about starting.

Does this sound like you?

If so, here are a few questions to consider:

What makes a good memoir?

This is a question many people fail to ask themselves. A book that seeks revenge or shares a horrific upbringing as its theme would be a book that shouldn’t be written. Only write your book if you would still be proud of it in five years.

Here are some elements to think about as you consider writing a memoir, whether it’s for posterity or for all to read:

Will my book uplift others? Really, at the end of the day, you want to create a book that will inspire others toward greatness. You want to encourage them to live their lives to the fullest, and learn from your experiences.

Do I have an interesting story to tell? A story is made up a series of incidents tied together by an overall theme. These incidents flow on a path, which follows a message and purpose. If you really only have an anecdote, even if it is hilarious, moving, or powerful, it isn’t enough for a book. It could make a good short story though!

Is my story unique? If you have a powerful viewpoint and a story with lots of action, you have the makings of a riveting book. But it’s equally important that the author has done something which would intrigue and educate the reader. Adventures are fun, but when it comes to memoir readers expect to take something positive away from your life experiences. They want to learn from your example.

Should I self-publish?

If you’re a celebrity or have been the topic of a strong news story recently, you might be able to write a good proposal, find an agent and get a good contract with a publisher. Otherwise, it’s unlikely (but not impossible) that you will land a decent publishing contract. And keep in mind that this process takes time and can be difficult. In addition, if you’re a first time author, don’t expect to get an advance. Most likely you’ll receive a 10% royalty, which will only kick in once the book starts selling and that could be years later.

In this day and age, especially with the advent of eBooks, you can do very well as a self-published author. You’ll have to learn a little about the industry, but if you can pull together a marketing plan, you can sell your book on Amazon.com and other popular retailers.

Should I hire a ghostwriter?

The answer really boils down to time, money, and skill. Writing a book on your own takes time and skill, but will save you a lot of money. Hiring a ghostwriter will alleviate your concerns over time and skill, but will cost you money upfront.

These are the top questions I receive from readers and clients specifically regarding writing memoirs. I’d really encourage you to explore your goals in writing a book. If your purpose is to help others, you will probably do well.

If you have a question that I haven’t covered here, please feel free to email me! I’d love to help you. If you’d like to learn more about pricing, please check out my article on the subject.

Additional articles you might find helpful:

Questions for a Ghostwriter

Seven Tips For Writing A Great Memoir

It’s Good Business to Write a Book

Four Different Ghostwriting Methods

What Are Good Memoir Themes?

Many people don’t consider that there should be memoir themes. Memoirs are just life stories, right? But just like with any story, your memoir should have a message, an overall theme. Remember, you’re not publishing your diary or a shopping list of memories. Your memoir needs to follow the same rules as any book, so you must be able to tie the threads of your tapestry together with a compelling theme.

So, what are some good themes for a memoir? Here are a few examples to consider:

Persistence always wins in the end

If you’ve lived a hard life, one with lots of obstacles to overcome, this can be a great theme if you’ve triumphed. However, if you’re still amid the battle and really don’t have anything positive to share, or wish to complain to your reader, it won’t make for a good book. I mean, would you want to read a book like that?

Continual courage can lead to victory

We have all experienced battles where the odds seemed against us. It’s what you do at those moments that count and can make for a good story. If your life is filled with examples of courage and integrity, that would be a great theme.

Family is important

This is a simple theme, but a good one. In this day and age, where the media reports that most marriages fail and children are growing up without the support and love of their parents, a good memoir showing the beautiful bond of family is important. Simply recording your family history for future generations is also a great concept!

Ethical people lead better lives

If your story highlights times when you stood up and did the right thing, even when it was difficult for you, your story can set an example for others. It isn’t always easy to keep your integrity, especially when peers are there pressuring you to do the opposite. Writing a book that shows how you succeeded by being ethical can help others make similar choices in their own lives. Perhaps someone will pick up your book when they’re at an important crossroad in their life and just need a gentle nudge to make the right decision.

Crime doesn’t pay

I actually receive a number of requests from former inmates who are eager to share their stories of reform. The ones who are passionate about this subject, who regularly go out and speak to young adults can do well with a complementary memoir. It might be rough in places and won’t always be happy-go-lucky, but the lessons learned by someone who has traveled the wrong path can be helpful to others. This theme works best if the author is presently leading a successful and ethical life.

There are many more good and valid themes to choose from. Really, you just need to look at the effect your story could have on others. If it uplifts and inspires them, go for it! Write your book! However, if you think that your story will depress people, make them less enthusiastic about life in any way, well, perhaps now isn’t quite the time to pen your memoir.

If you’re in the market for a ghostwriter, please contact me. I’d love to chat with you about your memoir project!

Additional articles you might find helpful:

Questions for a Ghostwriter

How Much Does It Cost To Hire A Ghostwriter?

Seven Tips For Writing A Great Memoir

A Ghostwriter’s Fee: How Do They Charge?

Working With A Ghostwriter – What Steps Should You Take?

Why Do You Want to Write Your Book?

write your bookCongratulations! You’ve made a decision that you want to finally write your book you started years ago. That’s a huge step, one that should be applauded.

Many people never get there. They sit on an idea, dreaming about how nice it would be to have a book with their name on it, but they don’t take the steps to see it through.

I get a few calls a day from prospective clients. When they contact me for a quote, I like to interview them a bit. One of my first questions is “What is your primary goal in writing this book?”

Here are some answers I love to hear:

  • “I really want to inspire others with my story.”
  • “I want to document my life story for my family to pass down through the generations.”
  • “I’ve been working on this book for years and just need help completing it.”
  • “I am passionate about helping others.”
  • “I have knowledge in a niche area that no one else has. I want to share it!”

These are the clients that I look for, the ones I am eager to help. They are often passionate people with message-driven stories or insightful nonfiction books. I want to assist them in achieving their goals!

I would say that most people who call me, asking for my ghostwriting services have very different responses to my question. I should warn you that when I hear these answers, I can immediately tell me that it won’t be a good match:

  • “I really want to get back at my ex with this book.”
  • “I was terribly abused as a child and adult, and want to share my story.”
  • “I want to make a million dollars in the first year.”

No one wants to read a book that is viciously attacking an individual or group, where the author is obviously carrying out a vendetta. Remember, whenever you put something in writing, it’s there forever, in print.

Likewise, people also don’t want to read about how someone was molested as a child, lost their parents to cancer, only to marry an abusive alcoholic who murdered their favorite pet. (Believe it or not, I get many emails from people with a similar story.)

As for the last reason, let’s talk about money.

It’s fine if you want to make a profit with your book. For some, it’s very realistic. However, you must understand that you will need to sell your book. Tossing a book up on amazon.com in the hopes that many will miraculously find it and buy it will lead to disappointment.

So, what is your goal for your book? Let me know, I’d love to hear about it!

Additional articles you might find helpful:

It’s Good Business to Write a Book

How Much Does It Cost To Hire A Ghostwriter?

What Do I Need to Start with a Ghostwriter?

A Ghostwriter’s Fee: How Do They Charge?

Eight Reasons Why You Should Write a Book

How to Write a Memoir

how to write a memoirIf you have been wondering how to write a memoir, here are a few helpful tips. A memoir is creative nonfiction, which allows a reader to step into the shoes of the author and experience their life as they did. It shouldn’t be a dry account of a series of incidents, but a passionate retelling of a personal journey.

Virginia Wolf said it best in her autobiographical essay A Sketch of the Past: “The reason so many memoirs fail is that they focus on the events or what happened and leave out the person to whom things happened.”

In order to accomplish the goal of putting the reader in the middle of the action, you really need to use the first person. This allows the reader to feel that the author is speaking to them directly. Of course, I’m sure there are exceptions and it might even be possible to write a memoir in the second person, but most prefer the first.

Is it a memoir or an autobiography?

Some writers will tell you that you can use memoir and autobiography interchangeably. And some would shoot me for saying that. People get very passionate about the subject.

If we dissect the difference, an autobiography is usually less personal and focuses on the complete chronological life of a person, whereas a memoir focuses on a specific event or time period.

Any autobiography can be similar in feel to a biography, just written by the author as opposed to a third party. It’s often more factual and historical in nature, whereas a memoir tends to be emotional.

Although memoirs are classified as nonfiction, they follow many of the same rules as fiction. For instance, dialogue is key to a good memoir. As with a novel, the conversations between characters help move the story forward. Also, even though one writes in the first person, the writer’s axiom of show, don’t tell applies well.

Another option

A diary is yet another style of telling your life story. it tracks a segment of your life through entries written on specific dates. The format is unique, sharing journal entries. One classic example is The Diary of a Young Girl by Anne Frank. 

A diary is a bit like the author is having a conversation with herself (or himself). It is a challenging and restricting format, one designed to record a series of events. It can work well for certain stories.

In the end, it really doesn’t matter much what you call the style of your book, as long as it communicates to others and allows them a peek into your life. Consider your message and tie that thread through the tapestry of your story. Perhaps your readers will improve their lives as a result.

Additional articles you might find helpful:

How To Write A Nonfiction Book

Seven Tips For Writing A Great Memoir

A Ghostwriter’s Fee: How Do They Charge?

Working With A Ghostwriter – What Steps Should You Take?

How Much Does It Cost To Hire A Ghostwriter?