Ask a Ghostwriter: How Can You Research a Memoir?

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Dear Friendly Ghostwriter, Hi Laura, I am 48. I need someone to write my life story. I read your article about hiring a ghostwriter and didn’t understand when you said that I would need to prepare work and research. What sort of research would I need to do? After all, it’s my real life story? How do I research a memoir? Thanks, Vi

Dear Vi, What a great question! Let me explain what I meant. Whenever I ghostwrite a memoir, I always do a lot of research on a number of subjects in order to get the background information needed to tell the story with authenticity. To properly answer your question, I think it would be good to explore what sort of research your writer might need to write your book. And while it is helpful for an author to provide research information to their writer, the ghost will also need to do extensive research on top of that. Ideally the author and ghostwriter will work together as a team to uncover needed information on a variety of subjects.

Time periods

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Memoirs take place in the past, often in a period long gone. For that reason, I like to research the culture of that epoch to ensure I describe it accurately. For instance, cell phones wouldn’t have been used in the 1980’s, so your characters would need to find payphones or use landlines to call one another. By the same token, the internet would have been in its infancy, so there would be no “surfing the web” day and night. Of course, you’ll also need to reflect the correct clothing styles of the era. When I write a book, I find myself looking up the details surrounding the scene so that I depict them realistically.

In addition, it can be helpful to refer to the current events of the time. For instance, if I’m writing a memoir taking place mid-September 1959, most households would probably be talking about the moon landing. Or if your book centers around a key moment at the end of 1989, you might mention the Berlin Wall falling, as that would have been a hot topic. Discussing those major milestones would be a good way to help the reader orient himself to the time periods in your story.

Locations

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Establishing the location is always important in any scene because it takes out the guesswork for the reader. That’s why I sometimes need to research places my characters will go. For instance, I had a client who described running down a major street near Miami. I wanted to get a feel for what the area would have looked like, so I used Google Earth and zoomed in to view the actual street. I learned it was an eight-lane highway and found there were lots of residential neighborhoods nearby. It helped me fill in the description.

Sometimes I will explore the homes I write about on the internet or through photos. Learning the layout helps me realistically put the kitchen next to the family room and the bedrooms upstairs (or not). Discovering the architectural style allows me to properly paint the picture with words. Sometimes I’ll do a search online to sneak a peek at the exterior of the home to get a feel for the front of the house. Of course, if the client has a photo of the place, that is very helpful.

When I can truly grasp the location, it helps me put myself in the space of the characters, which helps me write the story in an authentic way. I could make up details (and sometimes do), but it is wonderful when I can draw on researched facts.

Diaries, scrapbooks, and newspaper articles

When I research a memoir, some details comes in the form of firsthand recorded information. As a ghostwriter, the pages of personal diaries are like nuggets of gold. The words recorded years before provide information in a very organic way.

Likewise, newspaper clippings can help fill in missing pieces of important events, allowing me to understand more fully what happened. For instance, a wedding announcement would give the exact time and day of the event. This information allows me to look up the actual weather on that day. I’ll tell you, a wedding in the middle of a June thunderstorm is quite different from one that takes place in a heat wave.

One client had very little information about his ancestors, but wanted a story written about what could have happened. Through some online websites, I was able to determine the exact boat on which his grandfather arrived in New York in the mid 1800’s. My client had known the rough time period, so it was a joy to be able to discover the precise day, as well as the name of the ship. Then it was easy to research the boat to learn its size, crew compliment, and passenger list, all of which I could use to write faithful descriptions of the event.

So, Vi, research is an important part of any memoir. If you and I worked together, we’d be a team, tackling this vital area. So, consider collecting journal entries, newspaper clippings, photographs, and perhaps short biographies of the main players that will be featured in your book.

I’d love to hear from other writers on the subject. How did you research a memoir?

Ask a Ghostwriter: Beginning to Write a Book

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Dear Friendly Ghostwriter, I’ve never hired a ghostwriter, and I have no idea how I go about any of this, but I really would like to write a book on my life. Please could you give me some advice on how I even start the process, and also, I’m not very good with writing so I’m not sure I’d be able to write it myself. – Tony

Dear Tony, Your question is very common and makes sense. I can understand why the ghostwriting process might seem to be a bit of a mystery. I’ll tell you, whenever I take on a new client, the process is unique, because the author and written content are unique. However, I can share with you a few aspects that seem to occur with every book project I’ve worked on for the last two decades.

Basically, there are three phases: research and outlining, first draft, and editing. I go over these in more detail in my article called “What to Expect When Hiring a Ghostwriter,” if you’d like to read up on them.

As a first step, your ghostwriter will need to collect all the information required to write your book. In the case of a fictional novel, that could simply be understanding your core idea (which might not be time consuming). However, with a memoir, your writer will need to know everything about your life that is relevant to the book. This takes time and can be done in different ways. One is for the writer to interview you in person or on the phone. However, I find it is far more effective for the client to send me a lot of written notes (in rough form). After I study these carefully, I can follow up with emails and phone calls if I need more information or any clarification.

Please understand, when you hire a ghostwriter, you don’t need to write the book; you just need to provide notes. All your notes will be rewritten, so don’t worry about spelling and grammar. Now, some people prefer to work with the ghostwriter and write their book alongside them. That works, too! Again, each relationship is unique, but never feel you have to be a good writer to hire a ghost.

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Dear Friendly Ghostwriter, I need help and inspiration in surpassing the first eight pages of my book. I am sooo stuck… It feels as if I’m writing the same thing over and over, so I delete and delete, while continuously whittling my pages away. Also, I am constantly unsure of my grammar and punctuation. Any help is appreciated! –  Ennayt

Dear Ennayt, Stuck in the mud? You know, I hear this a lot! You’re not alone; not by a long shot. The fact is, a lot of new writers make the mistake of cutting out words, then pages, as they produce their first draft. It’s important to let yourself go and just write. I implore you not to waste any time (and words) editing in the beginning. Allow yourself the freedom to create! Trust me, once you get to the end of your first draft, you’ll be better equipped to sculpt your draft into a book.

I’d also recommend that you not worry about grammar in this phase. Just let the words pour out of your mind onto the page. If you’re interested in learning more about the English language, I’d recommend reading a simple grammar book or checking out an online source like Grammar Girl. Start by learning one rule, then applying it. Then select another and so forth. Take it step by step. You may just find the learning process fun!

Dear Friendly Ghostwriter, I would like to write an autobiography/screen play. This is something I have thought about for many years, but I’m extremely nervous how to approach this because of safety issues. I am not sure where to start. I would appreciate a consultation if possible. – Gen

Dear Gen, You bring up an excellent point. Honestly, I do think you have a right to be concerned. Once you put your story out there, you can’t take it back. I believe there are many instances when it just isn’t wise for someone to write their memoir. And it isn’t always safe.

Another point to consider is how a book will affect the people in your life. When writing a memoir, your characters are real people. They might not like what you have to say about them and if it isn’t handled correctly, the whole situation can blow up.

I always advise my clients to hide the people in the book as much as possible. For instance, it’s fine to change their names and physical appearances. The story will still be true even if the details are changed to protect the people involved.

Thank you all for your questions! Please feel free to write more in the comment section below or write me privately and I’ll do my best to answer!

You CAN Write a Novel, Memoir or How-to Book

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After talking to countless people over the years, I truly believe that every person has at least one story to share. Do you? Perhaps you have an account of a memorable trip trudging through the Amazon rainforest with only a backpack. Or maybe your family immigrated to America a decade ago and found success through hard work. Or perhaps you wish to chronicle your meteoric rise in eCommerce in a how-to book. Then again, you might just want to let yourself escape into a rollicking adventure yarn set in a far-off galaxy. Whether fact or fiction, it is begging to be told.

In writing.

Within the pages of a book.

Now, how do you get the ideas out of your head and onto the page?

Create detailed notes

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Record your initial ideas for your book in a notebook or on your computer. Don’t worry about formatting, grammar or spelling at this phase. Simply put your thoughts down.

Personally, I always have multiple Word documents open when I’m starting a book: character biographies (useful for memoirs and novels), incidents for an outline, research topics, etc.

Memoir

Now, if you’re writing a memoir, I’d suggest jotting down everything you can remember about the places you’ve been, the people you interacted with, and the key events of your life. Close your eyes and see what images you can find, listen for the speech patterns of the people around you, smell the odors, taste the foods, and feel the textures. Write them all down. These details will help bring your memories to life.

Novel

If you’re creating a fictional world, let your imagination run free. The more vividly you conceptualize the characters and settings, the clearer your readers will be able so see them. It still helps to create notes, so you don’t lose your ideas.

Collect sources for research

Whether you’re writing a how-to book, a memoir, or a novel, you need to do research. Even if you’re an expert on the subject, you’ll need to delve into details. Every writer becomes a researcher! There has never been a book that I could write without doing extensive study.

Today, research is easy through search engines, but sometimes you might need the help of a library. In those cases, you’ll need to take good notes and jot down the names of the books you use, along with the page numbers, so you can find the information again or reference it later.

How-to book

When I’m writing a how-to book, and I’m forming my outline (or Table of Contents), I find it helpful to copy links into the document under the subsection when I find a particularly helpful resource. Trust me, weeks later, it will be hard to find that source again. Good notes save a lot of time.

Fiction

Research is a fundamental element for fiction writing as well. Your writing must always be authentic. So, if you’re writing about the Amazon rainforest, and you’ve never been, you’ll need to read dozens of references to be able to describe the environment accurately. If you have visited the spot, you’ll still need to collect information about the history, vegetation, and the wildlife of the area. Your experiences will form the story, but research is invaluable to fill in the gaps.

Determine your reader and messages

Before you can begin writing, you must figure out who your reader will be. As I have mentioned a few times in previous blog articles, your readers can’t be “everyone.” It’s too general and vague. Be specific. Your reader might be teenage boys who are interested in soccer or retired women interested in a ornithology. You can see how the communication would be much different for these two categories of readers!

Next you’ll need to hone in on the messages you wish to communicate. Do you want people to learn that hard work and personal integrity can overcome obstacles and lead to success? Or maybe you want to share how patience and loyalty are the basis for long-lasting relationships? Being clear about your message will help you align the action of your story.

Be true to yourself

Most of us speak differently than we write. I’ve noticed that some people can wax formal when they have a pen in their hand! They take out contractions completely and dust off their finest vocabulary in an attempt to impress. The reader doesn’t care about any of that. They are looking for your voice in your writing, not that of your eleventh grade English teacher. Be yourself.

Take the next step

Now that you have thorough notes and research sources, you are ready to begin carving out your outline. Then you can write your book. Carve out the time and avoid distractions! For more information on the next steps to take, you will find many articles about writing on my blog. I hope they help!

If you would like the help of a ghostwriter to put your book together, please reach out to me (whether it be for a novel, memoir or how-to book). The research and notes you’ve created will not go to waste. After all, ghostwriters will need good notes to help create your vision. Please contact me if you are interested in going this route.

Ask a Ghostwriter: How Can I Add Descriptions in a Book?

Dear Friendly Ghostwriter, I am your average Joe. And I won’t call myself a writer by any means. Though I wrote a book because the idea was stuck in my head. I had ten people read and edit it. Then I self-published it through Author House. I know it has potential, but I was told I need more descriptions in a book. I wrote for a fast read and people say it’s too fast. So, now I’m lost and know I need help. I can’t afford those big bucks ghostwriters. What do I do?

D.T.

Dear D.T.,

Congratulations on writing your first book!

You are absolutely a writer. Don’t sell yourself short.

As I’ve stated in a few places on my blog, I truly believe that everyone has at least one book within them. It takes a lot of courage to take that idea that you have stuck in your head and put it down on paper. By sharing our stories, it brings us all closer, making the world a little brighter.

Your question is wonderful. Let’s get into the subject of the art of storytelling through using descriptions in a book.

The importance of descriptions in a book

As an author, you want to help people feel they are smack in the middle of the adventure you’re sharing. For instance, when you’re sharing a memoir experience, proper descriptions will allow your reader to feel what you felt, see what you saw, etc. If you don’t help set the stage, people will be lost.

If you’re spinning a yarn (telling a fictional story) good description helps the reader visualize what you create. After all, as a novelist, you are often creating new worlds to explore or transporting people to a different era or culture. It’s fun!

Don’t overdo it

In this fast-paced world we like to keep things moving along. This especially applies to books. Readers really need you to get to the point. If the author spends two pages describing the food at a buffet, readers will often skip over those pages. If that happens too often, they’ll put the book down. Very few people have the time or interest to read through pages or even paragraphs of flowery explanations of the way things look.

Find a way to give just enough descriptions of the people, places and things in your story to help your reader truly understand what you are sharing. Too little and they’ll be confused, too much, and they’ll get bored. I know, it’s not easy. Writing takes experience. You’ll get the hang of it!

Identify the mood

I like to break my stories into incidents. In each scene there are characters that perform specific actions to accomplish a goal. So, read over your story and isolate all the individual incidents.

Now, select one. What is the mood of that event? Is a married couple arguing over money? Is a corrupt businessman afraid of the intern who is threatening to expose him? Name the mood, then look for places where you can amplify it with some descriptive words to complement your intention.

For instance, angry scenes can be punctuated with shorter sentences and violent gestures. People tend to cross their arms, their faces become flushed or red involuntarily, and they sometimes clench their jaw. There are a ton of mannerisms you can describe. These help the reader understand the emotions involved.

Use your senses

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Writing instructors often recommend that you make a chart of sensory words you could use to describe something. So, let’s say you want to describe that corrupt businessman. List out some of your senses and find words that describe your character or environment. For example, smells associated with the corrupt man might be stale cigarette smoke, musky cologne, or old sweat. Sounds could include a raspy cough, or the clink of the coins he rubs together when he’s nervous. You get the idea.

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It’s a good idea to hone your senses so you can write more vivid passages. Go out to a variety of places (eg: the mall, a forest, a busy street intersection, a supermarket, etc.) and just observe. How do they make you feel? When you close your eyes, what to you hear? What do you smell? Use all your sense and keep notes in a log.

Show don’t tell

I know I’ve mentioned this axiom (show don’t tell) a zillion times in my blog (not exaggerating), but honestly this is a cardinal rule in writing. Your readers want to see the story unfold. When I write, I imagine my story as a movie. This helps me avoid explaining things or being too vague. After all, when I write a screenplay, I can’t “explain” anything with descriptive passages. It all needs to be told through action and dialogue.

To illustrate, I’ll continue with the corrupt businessman example. Let’s say you want to show that he’s scared. You could just write, “He was scared.” However, that really doesn’t help the reader slip into the moment with you. Here’s another approach: “His throat was so dry, he could barely swallow. Small beads of sweat dripped down his back as he clutched his hands in his lap to stop them from trembling.”

Which do you find more effective in putting you smack dab in the middle of his fear?

Which one shows the emotion properly?

Descriptions in a book should show rather than tell the reader what you wish to share.

You have already done the hard work, D.T. Bravo! It sounds to me like you have the action down. Now you can round it out by adding a few descriptive details. Have fun with it!

Ask a Ghostwriter: How Do I Communicate Through Writing?

Dear Friendly Ghostwriter, I would love to write a book, but have trouble getting my thoughts down on paper. Whenever I write, I don’t feel it communicates what I’m trying to say. How do you get to the point where you can write something, and others understand what you intended to say? How do I communicate through writing? – Cole

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Cole, your question gets to the heart of writing. I think we can all forget sometimes that we’re simply working to communicate an idea to another person. That’s really all we are going for, right?

To answer your question, here are a few ideas to help you get your point across.

Summarize your message

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It’s a good idea to create a little summary of what you wish to communicate before you begin writing a piece. No matter the length of the piece, take the time to jot down your message and read it over before you begin your writing session. It will help keep you on point.

Say you’re writing an article. You might summarize it simply by saying, “I want to teach someone how to braid their hair efficiently.” Or if you’re writing your memoir, you might be driven to share an overall message of “When you can forgive others and let go of your anger, you can find freedom and peace.”

Noting this for yourself will help you share your communication with your readers.

Know your reader

In order to communicate with another, you first need to understand who will be reading your book. You need to know your reader. Now, some writers make the mistake of saying that “everyone” is their reader. While some books might appeal to many people, you can’t write to everyone. It just doesn’t work. It’s too general.

Pick a reader and write to that person. Maybe it’s a middle-aged woman with children or maybe it’s a high school kid in the gifted program. Maybe your readers are elderly people on a fixed income or maybe they are professional businesspeople. When you know your reader, you can communicate directly to them. It becomes personal and they feel it.

Don’t try to impress anyone

Some writers feel they need to haul out the big words when they write. Why? I believe some people feel that they are being judged on the complexity of their writing. They’re trying to impress someone.

It’s been my experience that it works best to write simply and from the heart. Use words that most people understand. Fluffing up your text with fancy imagery, long sentences, and sixty-four-dollar words often gets in the way of sharing your message with the reader.. Remember, writing is a form of communication. It doesn’t impress anyone if they can’t understand you or lose track of the message you wish to impart. Write to your readers as you would talk to a close friend.

Find your voice

We all can develop a written voice. It’s not a magical skill reserved for only the elite. After speaking to many writers over the years, I have learned that it takes professional writers a few hundred thousand words before they discover their written voice. It takes experience, sometimes trial and error. It takes patience and work.

Cole, I suggest that you write an article and show it to your friends, people who fit into your readership. Ask them to give you feedback. Ask, then don’t speak. Whatever you do, don’t lead them or give out hints, but find out if you are able to communicate through writing to them. If you didn’t get your point across, try again. Then ask again. When people start understanding your written word without explanation, you’re on the right track.

Keep writing. You’ll find your voice and you’ll learn to communicate your ideas on paper. It truly is an amazing art form! Of course, if any of my readers need the help and guidance of a ghostwriter, please feel free to email me!

Your Memoir: Building Character and Your Written Voice

When I begin working with you as a client, one of my first priorities will be to develop your written voice early on. It’s important to know that the voice you select will need to be consistent throughout every single piece of published writing. In other words, your first book needs to match your second, which also needs to match your blog and any guest posts.

Finding your inner voice

While your written voice will be different from your spoken one, there is definitely a lot of overlap. Your written voice could be better dubbed your inner voice. Like a fingerprint, yours will be different from others.

For starters, you might have unique ways of speaking that can help to identify your voice. As we work together, I’ll be hunting for these clues. It’s my job to select a few of these characteristics and sprinkle them throughout your book. Having said that, I’ll always protect your reputation and brand; I won’t include anything you’d prefer left off the page. And we’ll leave the “ums” and “ers” out, of course.

You’re such a character

It might surprise you to learn that you’ll become the central character of your memoir. That means you and I will need to follow the rules of writing and apply them to each person that we write about in your story. Sure, you are you, but in your book, your character will take on a life of its own.

As I perfect your voice, I will also be working on the voices of all the other main dramatis personae of your book (aka your friends, family, colleagues, etc.). It will help me if you can jot down some sample conversations you’ve had with others. Let me see how you interact with the people in your life.

Keep in mind that we will need to create plausible dialogue and embellish things a bit. Don’t worry, your readers don’t expect you to recall exactly what you said ten years ago. Instead, they want a good story. For that reason, they will give you a little creative license.

Mind your mannerisms

We all have them. Do you twirl your hair around your pencil or stroke an imaginary beard? Maybe you slap your hands against your thighs for emphasis when you speak. Including these little habits in your memoir helps lend authenticity to your character. If you have trouble spotting them, ask friends and family for their observations. Then notice their traits.

In addition, it’s good to examine the way the important people around you look at the world, how they communicate to others without words, their general mood, and anything else that makes them unique. Sharing these allows me to enrich their characters within your book.

When I’m working on a story (fiction or nonfiction), I create complete bios for the main characters. I’ll need your help to create these for your memoir. For instance, it really helps to know the month and year in which all the main players were born. This helps me track with their ages throughout the story.

It also helps to know eye color, height, weight, hair style, etc. so I don’t give your husband a buzz cut when he has a ponytail or man bun. How do they dress? Are they always in a tie and consider a polo shirt casual dress? Or perhaps that polo shirt is the only formal item in their closet.

If you’re considering hiring a ghostwriter for your memoir, and want to take a preliminary step, start building character profiles for yourself and everyone who will appear in your book. It will be such an asset to me (or whomever you hire). When we start working together, I can give you more complete instructions for helping me collect all this information, and more. Just contact me to get started!

Ask a Ghostwriter: Please Write a Book about My Life

i want someone to write a book about my life

Dear Friendly Ghostwriter, I want someone to write a book about my life. I’ve experienced so much, and I feel others could benefit from reading my story. There have been a lot of ups and downs, but I’ve come through and have a good life now. People are always telling me that I should write a book, so I’m reaching out to you. I don’t have the time and frankly, don’t have the experience needed. I need help! – R.W.

R.W. I’ll tell you, each week, I get at least three letters that paraphrase this sentiment. There are variations to this request, but the plea is basically the same. Help, help, I want someone to write my book!

I hear you!

I’m here to help.

I can’t always respond to everyone who writes, but here are a few ways you can be sure to catch my attention.

Have an uplifting angle

Trust me, no one wants to read a book about how horrible a life has been. While the story could be completely true, it will make reader feel awful (and sometimes squeamish). In addition, there will be no progression of the characters, which makes the book flat and boring.

Personally, I will only write meaningful stories, with good, uplifting endings. There is plenty of bad news in the world; I don’t need to add to it. It’s very rewarding for me when a reader walks away from reading a book I wrote with a new positive outlook and fresh approach to life.

I’ve ghostwritten a few books about the Holocaust, because I feel the survival stories are each important to share. I spoke to a woman the other day, who lives her life every day feeling grateful for being alive. She feels the weight of responsibility to make good decisions that help others. Shouldn’t we all feel that?

Research my website

I love it when authors write me and have done their homework. They have reviewed my website and want to hire me because they like how I write. I’ve written over a hundred blog articles, so if you want to get a feel for my writing style, my website is a great place to start.

I’ve also written over two dozen books, but unfortunately, you can’t read them. That’s because I always sign a confidentiality agreement with each client. After all, when you hire me, you’ll be the author and once we’re done, I’ll just be a ghost.

Still, I have two books that bear my name. Check them out. You don’t have to purchase them but can see a preview on Amazon. Yes, each client has a unique written voice, but it’s always wise to do a little research and become familiar with your ghostwriter’s writing skills.

Know what I charge

Take a moment and review my pricing. If you do, and I’m within your range, let me know. It saves us a lot of time. If you can’t afford me, but have a budget, be upfront about that. I can sometimes help you work something out with another writer.

I charge $50,000 for a 200-page (50,000 word) book. That works out to a dollar per word, so if you have a smaller budget, I can write a shorter book. Mini-eBooks are popular on Amazon, so that’s always an option.

Please understand that no matter how compelling your book is, I am not able to write it for free. It takes hundreds of hours to write a book!

I love working with new authors but am very selective about the books I write and the people I write with. My clients become my partners for the period we work together and most become good friends. It’s a special relationship, one I cherish.

If you’re saying to yourself, “I want someone to write a book about my life” email me and we’ll see what we can do to get started.

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. Know your story! 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 a 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

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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.

If you’re writing a memoir, remember that 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 or Biography?

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. Should you write a memoir, an autobiography, or a biography?

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?