When You Shouldn’t Write Your Life Story

Writing a memoir Are you debating whether or not to write your life story?

Well, you’re not alone. I have spoken with many people who are considering the same, wonderful endeavor. Some are certain of their course of action, while others are still mulling it over, trying to figure out if penning a book is the right decision for them.

I love helping people resolve this question!

More often than not, I will strongly encourage a person to write their life story. This is especially true if their memoir would have an educational or inspirational aspect.

Is that true of your story?

Did you travel and gain insights into another culture, thereby shifting your worldview?

Or perhaps you worked hard to overcome a physical challenge, thereby discovering your own personal strength and resilience?

Maybe you persisted towards a goal, facing and demolishing great barriers, thereby unlocking your hidden potential?

These are the kinds of memoir themes that enlighten and uplift others. These are the kinds of stories that others want to read. Wouldn’t you?

Consider your audience

When you do decide that you want to write your life story, one of the first things to consider is your readers. Who will be your audience? Maybe the book will be only for your immediate family. That’s completely fine. Recording your personal history for your children, and your children’s children, is a wonderful gift.  More and more people are becoming interested in learning about their family heritage. Unfortunately, often the experiences that shape and influence the family are lost over time. By writing your life story, you are creating a legacy that can be enjoyed and cherished for generations.

Maybe you are one of those people who wants to share your story with a broader audience. That’s wonderful! There are a number of ways to do this. You could use a blog format, sharing anecdotes on a weekly basis, or you could write a full-length memoir.

As long as your life story has a good, inspiring message, you should find a way to share it with others.

Not every story should be told

Now this might sound strange, but it’s true: not every story should be told. Yes, there are times when I actually beg someone not to write their life story. As a professional ghostwriter, I know that might seem bad for business, but I feel strongly that writers should avoid certain themes in literature.

Here are some examples of potential projects that I have rejected over the last decade:

“I’d really like to get back at so-and-so.”

Revenge isn't a good reason to write a bookRevenge is a dangerous motivation for writing a book. It can backfire on you. Be warned that you might end up hurting yourself more than your intended target.

Remember, when you put something in writing, it becomes a permanent record. You can never completely take the harsh words back. Your unkindness is out there for all eternity, for many readers to view over and over again. Also, consider that you might want to make peace with the person you maligned. Will he be able to reconcile with the person who maligned him so publicly?

Writing a book to hurt someone else, even if you feel it is justified, is always a bad idea.

“I’ve lived a horrible life.”

This might surprise you, but I’ve received a ton of memoir requests from people who have lived a life of misery and despair. For instance, their childhood might have been filled with abuse. Then they married another abuser and continued the pattern. When I ask about the purpose of their book, they usually say that it shows how one can live through anything.

While this may be a decent message for some, it isn’t really one to hammer into those who are trying to escape abuse. It’s true that not every story has to have a happy ending, but most stories, particularly the memorable ones, inspire us in some way. And it’s hard to be inspired when you’re reading such a depressing account of someone’s life. Most people would have no interest in picking up and reading such a book. Would you?

Even when the message is inspiring, there are some projects I won’t take on because of other circumstances or problems. Here are a few from my files:

“I want to become rich from this one book.”

While it is possible to do well financially with a book, it is very hard to make that happen with your first one. It really comes down to your marketing skills. If you are experienced in this area, you could do well. If you’re not, you’ll need to learn. There’s no way around that.

A brilliantly written book will not sell well if the author fails to promote. Even a publisher will not be able to work his or her magic if the author isn’t actively marketing his or her own book. There is only so much any publisher can do.

Even if you’re a marketing guru, you must have a well written book to sell. If you publish a book that breaks all the rules of writing and is littered with grammatical errors, you will wind up with poor reviews and negative publicity.

“I just can’t remember much.”

I completely understand how difficult it can be to remember details of one’s life that happened decades ago. Don’t worry about that. Still, a ghostwriter will always need a sketch of the incidents that formed your life. What you ate for breakfast isn’t as important as the fact that you dined with the Ambassador to France one day in Switzerland or you visited your Aunt in the hospital over spring break.

A few times this year I received requests to write a book from people who truly couldn’t remember any relevant stories from their past. Without those stories, there is no book.

Having said that, don’t give up your dream to write your life story if you’re having some difficulty recalling your past. I can often help people remember details through the interviewing process. It’s a fun perk to hiring a ghostwriter!

“My family and close friends would kill me.”

This is a common fear. When I have talked to client prospects to learn more about their projects and give them advice, quite a few have mentioned that they were worried about hurting the feelings of loved ones. This is a very valid concern, one that should be taken seriously. People like to be seen in the best light, and once you put your story in writing, it’s permanent. A negative or hurtful portrayal may cause upset.

As a ghostwriter, I can hide the identity of most people in your life by changing their names. George can become Pete or even Alice. I can also change other details, such as locations or career paths. However, I really can’t hide Mama or that eccentric uncle that everyone knows. Those close to you will know whom you’re talking about, and they might not like what you have to say.

“I’ve lived a boring life, except for this one incident.”

If you had, say, a near-death experience, it might have been very exciting and worthy of a short story or a newspaper feature article. However, if the rest of your life was relatively ordinary, or “boring,” most likely that one event won’t make for a good memoir.

A good book has dozens and dozens of exciting incidents. Now, a near-death experience would probably have quite a few good incidents connected to it, but it’s probably not enough to sustain an entire book.

“I don’t want everyone to know what happened to me.”

Woman looking in mirror deciding whether to write her life storyWriting a memoir is essentially putting your personal life on display for all to see. If you are concerned about others knowing what happened to you, it’s probably not a good idea to write a book.

Having said that, some clients who don’t wish to share their story with the whole world opt to write it for their family. This allows them to accomplish both goals. I love helping people become their family’s historian.

Another option is to fictionalize your story. It wouldn’t be classified as a “memoir” anymore, but it would be a way to get your story out there. However, keep in mind that there’s a good chance your family and close friends could still guess that it has something to do with you and your experiences.

As a ghostwriter, I normally encourage others to write their memoirs because I strongly feel that people often have a book or two within them. It may be that your life story shouldn’t be the subject of your book. But that doesn’t mean you don’t still have something valuable to say. Maybe you can share your niche area of expertise with others, or perhaps you have an idea for a science fiction novel. Fantastic! I can help you write those kinds of books as well.

If you’d like to explore hiring a ghostwriter, please email me. I’ll give you my honest advice and direction.

Additional articles you might find helpful:

Seven Tips For Writing A Great Memoir

Why Should I Hire a Ghostwriter?

A Ghostwriter’s Fee: How Do They Charge?

Understanding Characters

How Much Does It Cost To Hire A Ghostwriter?

 

How To Write An Autobiography

Girl thinking about writing her autobiographySome people want to write an autobiography to simply share their stories with their family.

Others want to engage a broader audience. Those authors usually feel strongly that they have life lessons to share with the world.

If you’re working on tackling how to write an autobiography, you have already overcome the first barrier of deciding whether or not to share your personal story with others. You know it’s worth telling.

Now that you’ve decided, where do you start?

Here are some tips to help you get going:

Consider writing a memoir instead

An autobiography tends to be a bit clinical in its approach. For one thing, you have the burden of starting with the beginning of your life and moving forward through your entire existence.

When writing a memoir, you have the luxury of selecting a segment of your life. You can cover only the exciting part, like when you overcame a particularly gnarly hurdle or triumphed over near-impossible odds. You can select your memoir’s theme!

Most readers agree that a memoir is usually a better choice, because it’s more personal and reads more like a novel.

Read a lot of memoirs or autobiographies

You will learn a lot by reading the autobiography or memoir of someone you admire. Pick a hero you adore and read up on them. Most celebrities have written a few books (or hired a ghostwriter to do so for them). Reading these personal accounts will help you figure out how to structure your book.

It’s a good idea to read each book twice. Read it the first time for pleasure, then read it a second time to thoroughly review how the author communicated her thoughts to you. Could you really empathize with what she went through in the story? If so, analyze how the author achieved her goal.

Research your own life

Researching life storyTo be complete and accurate, your book must cover more than what you can remember. You will need to become a bit of a detective and delve into your family’s history! Take the time to interview family members and ask probing questions to uncover details.

Here are some areas you might look into:

  • Events leading up to your birth and your birth story.
  • The environment and circumstances of your family (and the world around you) when you were a child.
  • The background of your parents and grandparents.
  • Difficulties your family overcame to bring you where you are today.

As you interview various people, you are bound to discover information you never knew before. You just might make interesting connections about why you are the way you are.

Digging into the past has a way of jogging  memories loose and bringing more data to the surface. Be ready to follow any new direction and ask a lot of follow up questions.

Organize and outline

Once you have all the information gathered, make a timeline of your memories so you have them organized by date.

Then make an outline based on the individual incidents from your timeline. Determine where you want your story to start. If you decide to stick with an autobiography, you’ll need to cover your entire life chronologically. If you opt to write a memoir, you’ll want to focus on a key period from your timeline.

Identify your theme or message.

Every story needs a good strong message. You need a memoir theme.

What is it that you want your reader to learn? What should they walk away with after reading your book?

Maybe your theme revolves around resisting corruption. Or perhaps you overcame a handicap. If you persisted through an obstacle to achieve a goal, that often makes for a good theme.

These themes might not be apparent when you first embark on your writing adventure. Through your research and organization, good themes should pop out—and what they are may surprise you.

If you need a little help, please email me. Finding the primary themes of a story is one of my fortes.

Start writing

This step can be one of the hardest, particularly if you don’t have much writing experience. My advice is to just start writing!

Even if you don’t love the way it sounds, even if you feel like it’s no good at all, just get words down on paper. Don’t ever let perfectionism stop you. Remember that before you publish, you’ll edit; that’s how the writing process works. However, if you never get anything down in the first place, it’s awfully hard to edit!

So, my advice is always, “Write, right now!”

Ask for help when needed

Ask for help when writing a bookWhether you are a novice writer or an experienced professional, writing your life story can be difficult because it’s so close to your heart. Some segments might be painful to recall and write.

If you need help, ask for it.

Consult a friend, an editor, or a writing coach to give you a fresh viewpoint and get you through those sticky spots when you run out of ideas entirely. I sometimes coach writers at an hourly rate. It can help you push through writer’s block.

If you can’t write an autobiography, hire a ghostwriter

Have you been trying to write an autobiography or memoir for nearly a decade and haven’t gotten very far? You aren’t alone. Writing your life story can be challenging.

Hire a ghostwriter. Professional writers are well trained in storytelling and research. Their level of assistance can range from minor help with re-writes and research to doing all the writing themselves under your name.

You will always keep the rights to your story.

If you’re not an experienced writer, hiring a ghost is the best solution.

As you embark on this new adventure of writing your autobiography or memoir, enjoy the process! And remember—Write, right now!

Additional articles you might find helpful:

Do you need help writing a book?

How Much Does It Cost To Hire A Ghostwriter?

Should you hire a local ghostwriter?

Working with a Ghostwriter – What steps should you take?

 

Tips For Writing A Memoir

I suspect that a number of you, my gentle readers, are thinking about writing a book. Am I right? Perhaps you want to share your life story. If so, here are some tips for writing a memoir:

Writing a memoir takes time

Write without fear. Edit without mercy.Writing a book isn’t an overnight undertaking.

Although it might be possible to complete a book in a month or two, I urge you not to rush the process. Even if you have plenty of time, give yourself some breathing room.

Six to eight months is a good timeframe for completing a book. Set daily targets and hold yourself accountable to making them. Your memoir will be the better for it.

Character flaws are key

Even if you are a living hero, you’ll need to take a step back and look for a few non-optimum personality traits to share.

The reason for this is that the rest of us, your readers who have flaws, will never be able to relate to the story of a perfect superhero. Include the mistakes you’ve made in your life. Find a few lapses in judgment and delve into them. Anecdotes showing how you overcame barriers and errors will enhance your book.

Humor goes a long way

When an author can poke fun at his or her situation and enliven a story by bringing out its comical aspect, it makes for a more enjoyable and memorable read. While it is best not to make fun of others in your book, there are still plenty of other ways to include humor.

For instance, funny dialogue snippets lighten the mood nicely. There might also be times when you can uncover an absurd moment then expand on it. Don’t be afraid to shine a spotlight on certain aspects of your life that might make others laugh out loud.

Write and write and write

If you’re writing a memoir yourself, you’ll need to write on a regular basis.

Don’t expect to make much progress if you only type a few pages on the weekends. Great writers write every day. It keeps ideas flowing and the creative pump primed.

Feel free to embellish the details

No one expects you to remember every single little detail of your life perfectly.

For example, can you recall what you had for breakfast on October 20th, 1974? If you’re writing a breakfast scene and want to put Eggs Benedict on the table, go ahead. Your readers will accept it.

The situation is similar with dialogue. If you are writing about an important conversation, your readers don’t care about the exact words spoken. They just want to know the gist of the conversation.

The truth is, even if you have a photographic memory, you will want to change up the words a bit to improve the flow of the story. However, never invent fictitious and unflattering words for a real person you’re mentioning by name. He or she might not appreciate your creativity.

Be honest

Although you’re delving into the viewpoint of one character, you, you need to have the ability to pull back from your perspective.

Be objective.

This might mean that you don’t come out the winner in every argument. And, please don’t resent me for saying so, but you might turn out to be wrong on occasion. It happens! Remember, flawless characters aren’t very believable.

One of my biggest tips for writing a memoir is to be truthful with your readers. It’s possible that they might learn a lesson and avoid making the same mistakes you did. Wouldn’t it be good to know that your book changed the life of just one person?

Read other memoirs

Girl reading a memoirI read a quote today that I loved. It said:

“Reading and writing cannot be separated. Reading is breathing in. Writing is breathing out.” (I wish I knew who wrote it.)

Writing a memoir is difficult if you’ve never read one by another writer. Reading a lot will help you learn about what works and what doesn’t.

You can also learn to spot the memoir themes, which might give you ideas for your book’s theme.

With these tips for writing a memoir, you are ready. Now start writing. Continue to write. Then write some more until your first draft is completed.

Don’t edit, just write.

Enjoy the experience.

Personally, I love ghostwriting memoirs because I get to meet new people and help them share their life stories with others. While doing so, they usually remember new details about their lives that they’d forgotten for decades. And, in the end, they always learn a lot, as do their readers. The process is so rewarding!

Additional articles you might find helpful:

Interview Questions for a Ghostwriter

How to Write a Business Book

What to Expect In an Interview with a Ghostwriter

Understanding Characters

How Much Does It Cost To Hire A Ghostwriter?

Who Typically Hires a Ghostwriter?

Some people think that only celebrities and political icons hire ghostwriters. That just isn’t true. We are actually contracted by many different kinds of authors. My clients have held various professions, and each person has their own goal. Having written nearly three dozen books for a variety of authors, I can tell you that no two are alike. So, who hires a ghostwriter? Well, I’ve found they usually fit into one of five categories.

Business people hire ghostwriters

Entrepreneurs and industry leaders often hire ghostwriters to establish that they are the expert in their field. In addition, they often wish to author a book in order to strengthen their brand. It boosts their credibility to a new level. A book with their name on the cover will get them noticed, and it will help them expand their business.

Interestingly enough, selling their book is only one profit center for a business owner. I’ve found that most entrepreneurs write books in order to expand their clientele. For some, one new client means thousands in profit, so ten new clients can recoup the cost of their ghostwriter.

After talking to many busy executives and entrepreneurs, I’ve learned they usually don’t have the time to sit and write a book without a score of interruptions. Also, the average business owner is usually unfamiliar with the book writing process; it takes years of practice to hone that skill. Most don’t have the time to develop that expertise.

Someone with a niche market

If someone has a particular expertise, they might hire me to write a thorough how-to book, so that they can help others flourish in that field. Someone who started in poverty, who now owns a half dozen thriving businesses and is worth tens of millions of dollars should really tell her story, so that others might follow in her footsteps.

Or, if someone has a particular ability or skill set, he really should share that information with others. Maybe you’ve learned a new approach to gardening or have discovered new photography techniques. It would be a shame if that information were to be lost forever. I enjoy helping clients share details on how to start a variety of businesses.

Family historians hire ghostwriters

Most families have at least one person who is in charge of the collective memories of the family. They are the one you can go to when you’re trying to sort out the family tree. They are the person who remembers all the details of the stories that are told from generation to generation.

Family historians often come to me when they wish to preserve their family history on a permanent basis. Some choose to share these events with the world, while others simply want to let their grandchildren know how life was back in their day. I love to help families preserve their unique stories.

Fiction writers

I think this category surprises people the most. “You mean people hire you to write novels?” Why, yes, they do! Sci-fi, drama, fantasy, young adult, etc. See, a lot of people have a nugget of an idea and need help fleshing out the story. Some clients approach me with a rough outline and the biographies of a few characters worked out, but don’t know how to tie everything together. A few clients have a hundred pages written, but the story doesn’t seem to flow from one scene to the next. They are detailed notes rather than a manuscript. Whatever the issue, I can help sort it out.

Memoirs authors

The most common request I receive as a ghostwriter is to write a person’s life story. Clients wish to share their memories in a riveting, engaging way. I must say, I love writing a memoir, as it often has the qualities of multiple genres. A memoir is most like a novel, in that follows all the same rules (you must develop your characters, create entertaining and realistic dialogue, etc.). It also often features a businessperson’s successful actions, sharing their niche market advice. And many memoirs succeed in preserving the family memories.

Some memoirs are fictionalized for a variety of reasons. However, most stick with the factual events and just include some embellishments. Either way, it’s my job to make the story a thrilling read, capturing the readers’ attention from the get-go.

Many different kinds of people hire me to write books for them. I’ve worked with retired people, business icons, medical professionals, business owners, entrepreneurs, and many others. They all want to either tell their story or share their expertise. It is my honor to assist them.

If you’re looking to hire a ghostwriter, please contact me. Check out the fee on my pricing page, so we can make sure that you and I are indeed on the same page.

Understanding the Costs of Hiring a Ghostwriter

A woman wants to hire a ghostwriter to write my bookHow much would it cost to write my book?”

That’s a common question, one that I’m always happy to answer when an client interviews me. I believe direct answers are most helpful. I charge a dollar per word to ghostwrite.

Now, I really enjoy talking to people about their book concepts. After all, I’ve worked with dozens of clients over the last seventeen years and have had the privilege of writing their books with them. It is wonderfully rewarding!

Some prospective clients have very good ideas and just need help. However, occasionally there are those calls which frustrate me beyond belief. One occurred the other day…

A little story

I was right in the middle of the last chapter of a memoir I was ghostwriting for a client when the phone rang. Normally, I don’t like to be interrupted while writing, as it breaks my creative flow, but I worried that it might be a writer with a question, so I picked up (I also coach budding writers from time to time).

“Hello?” I asked.

“Is this Laura Sherman?” the young woman asked, her voice slightly demanding.

Oh my… It wasn’t a good start. I was brought up to identify myself on the phone and dislike it when people don’t bother to give their name before asking me for mine.

“Yes, it is,” I said, with a sigh. I wasn’t in the mood to correct her. At least the woman didn’t seem like a telephone solicitor.

“I want to hire a ghostwriter to write my book, because I just don’t have the time to write it myself.”

“That makes sense,” I said. She had voiced a common plea. Most of my clients are busy executives, with very little extra time. “And to whom am I speaking?” (hint hint)

She paused for a moment, probably weighing the pros and cons of telling me her name. “Joyce.” (Okay, that wasn’t really her name, but I’m a ghostwriter, so I can embellish.)

The Interview with Joyce

“Hello, Joyce,” I said. “What’s your book about?”

“My life story,” was all she offered. “What are the steps involved with hiring someone to write my book.”

I gave her a brief overview of how the process works, letting her know it would probably require a couple dozen interviews, spread out over a ten month period. I explained how it takes a ghostwriter hundreds of hours to write a book. She asked a few more questions then got to the big one.

“So, how much does it cost to hire a ghostwriter?”

“Well, that depends. How long will your book be?”

“About two hundred pages,” she said.

“That’s a good length. I charge a dollar per word,” I said. “So, I’d charge $50,000. What’s your budget?”

“I don’t know. I don’t have a lot of money to spend.”

Just what every ghostwriter wants to hear. “Well, how much did you want to spend?”

“I don’t know, maybe a thousand dollars? I know that probably isn’t enough, right?”

“No, it isn’t,” I agreed.

A Ghostwriter’s fee

No one can charge a thousand dollars for ten months work, not even starving ghostwriters. However, I always like to try to help everyone who contacts me.  “Look, I know a few editors who are looking to branch out into writing. If you’re interested in writing a short, one-hundred page book, I could talk to one of them about maybe coming down to ten thousand dollars. That’s low, but possible.”

“I don’t have that kind of money.”

“Then you’ll probably need to write the book yourself,” I said. “If you did manage to find someone willing to write your book for a thousand dollars, it probably wouldn’t come out well. Then you’d be stuck hiring someone else to rewrite it.”

She then asked me what would happen after the book was written and I gave her a rundown on what an author needs to do to sell a book, such as creating and maintaining marketing websites.

“I’m not good with computers, so I can’t do any of that,” she said.

Yes, there’s a learning curve

“You’ll need to learn,” I said. My bluntness sometimes gets me into trouble, but I find it’s better to be upfront than beat around the bush. “Even if you get a publisher, you’ll need to do your own marketing. That’s part of being an author these days.”

“So, how can I find a ghostwriter?”

“If you’re able to scrape together ten thousand dollars, I can ask around for you.”

“But that would be for a good writer,” she replied. “What if I just wanted to find a writer who will do it for one thousand dollars?”

I have to admit I was speechless for a moment. Finally, I tried to repeat that anyone willing to write a book for a thousand dollars wasn’t someone she’d want to hire, but she cut me off and said, “OK, thank you!” and hung up.

Moral of the story

If you’re serious about writing a book, you will find a way. Either by hiring a good, qualified ghostwriter or by making the time to write it yourself.

Now, if you’ve read this article and you are interested in hiring a ghostwriter, I would love to hear from you.

If you’re interested in learning more about the writing process, please check out these other blog article topics:

Character Development

How to Handle Criticism

Avoiding Distractions

How to Complete a Book