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?

 

Writing a Book: Your First Few Steps

Congratulations!

I’m thrilled that you made the momentous decision to complete that book that you’ve been thinking about writing for years! Bravo! That’s the first step. Now let’s tackle the next few.

I’m not here to tell you that writing a book can be made simple through a few steps. No, it will take time and patience. There is no way to even pen a short book in a few weeks. However, with a few preliminary steps I’d like to try to cut down on potential frustration!

Sum up your book in just a few lines

Before you can really start even outlining your book, you need to answer this fundamental question in a few lines: “What is your story about?” Then see if you can boil it down to a single line, a single breath. For example: This is a story about a young man, who rose from extreme poverty to become a successful entrepreneur. You know what the book is about, don’t you?

Why is this important? It keeps you on track. Plus, the themes, messages, and purposes of the book come out quickly from this simple one-line statement. It also keeps you from traveling down a divergent path. For instance, you might be tempted to devote three chapters of your business memoir to a failed marriage, designed to help budding entrepreneurs. Perhaps you’re hoping to get in a few good digs along the way. Well, that doesn’t really match your original concept, does it? So, toss it.

However, delving into an early business failure could definitely help your readers avoid the same pitfalls. Those stories would definitely be good to tell and would be important to your story.

Assignment: Write a one- to three-line summary of your story, answering the question, “What is your story about?”

What’s your purpose?

A ghostwriter will give you a well-written bookWhy are you interested in writing your book? What do you hope your reader will gain from reading it?

As I’ve written a few times in my blog, if your purpose is to get back at someone, think again. That story just isn’t something worth reading. Another purpose that rarely works is financial. If you’re looking to make a million off of your story, and that is your primary goal, it won’t come out right.

By defining your purpose, you can help yourself stay on track. When you get into outlining, you can make sure that each scene, each segment aligns with that purpose fully. And if you find yourself straying, you can toss the paragraphs into a roaring proverbial bonfire.

Assignment: Write down your purpose(s) in writing your book.

What are your messages?

It’s good to work out what messages you wish to impart to your reader early in the process. This will help you sort through all the information you’ll gather later, in order to figure out what will make the cut. It will also help you find your writing voice and determine how you want to tell your story (or share your wisdom).

For instance, one of your messages for your memoir might be about the value of perseverance. Another message could center around the importance of ethical behavior in business. So, the individual stories that will make up the book should center around these themes.

Assignment: Write down the messages you wish to impart to your reader.

Once you’ve finished these steps, you’ll be ready to start collecting notes, which you’ll use to create an outline. That will be the subject for the next blog article! Let me know how you did with the assignments above in the comment section below!

If you decide you wish to hire a ghostwriter, please contact me. I’d like to help. And if you wish to learn about my pricing, please check out my article on the subject!

Thank you and keep writing!

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

Interview Questions for a Ghostwriter

A Ghostwriter’s Fee: How Do They Charge?

Working With A Ghostwriter – What Steps Should You Take?

Help! Help! I Need Help Writing a Book!

Chess Is Child’s Play

Chess is Child's PlayChess Is Child’s Play teaches parents how to teach any child, of any age, to play chess. This is a personal passion project. I feel strongly that if we can teach our next generation chess, they will receive needed life skills. From personal experience and extensive research I have learned that chess helps children improve their problem solving skills, increase their self-confidence and focus, become more patient, and do better in school.

I learned to play chess when I was nine years old. Soon after I began playing tournament chess and became one of the top 50 US women players. Throughout my life chess has been a theme and an inspiration.

My husband and I have taught hundreds of children to play chess over the last few years. We have fine-tuned our techniques, creating a system that others can follow, even if they have never seen a chess board before.

Children love chess! If you put a chess board out, they will flock to it and play. Children think chess is cool! It is my hope that this book will give them an advantage as they attempt to solve some of the world’s problems that our generation has left behind.

This book is now available for purchase on Amazon.

Buy Now

Can I Be A Writer?

Research your writing projectAre you asking yourself, “Can I be a writer?” If this question is burning deep within you, I want to tell you that the answer is:

“Yes! Of course!”

It takes hard work and dedication, but yes, you can be a writer.

Research topics

Begin by writing about things you are very familiar with. Write about what you know. You can research any topic and write about that subject, but it is much easier to start by writing about what you know well. In order to write about something you must be knowledgeable about it. You can’t fake it. Your readers will be able to tell that you don’t know your subject and will lose respect for you.

Back in 2011, I was hired to write numerous articles about mortgages. I had worked in the industry for five years years prior. Besides being a mortgage director, I also gave seminars and lectures on the mortgage industry to clients and colleagues, so I was familiar with how to explain various complex concepts to people who were unfamiliar with the subject.

Even though I was a mortgage expert, I would still Google the various topics requested of me. After all, it was possible that there were angles I hadn’t considered or new information on the subject I could learn. Research is always an important part of writing.

Know your sources

I was surprised by how many people wrote articles about real estate and how mortgages work, who didn’t have a clue about the area. They obviously weren’t familiar with the subject and unfortunately would copy articles from other authors who were equally clueless. It was a mess! Because I knew the area so well, I could quickly sort out the correct information from the incorrect.

So the lesson there is, watch who you’re counting as an “expert.” As a rule of thumb, if you’re researching a topic you should find three articles that support a fact (but make sure the three articles aren’t duplicates of the same article). Most likely this will keep you from making an error in trusting the wrong source. It isn’t foolproof, but it has worked for me. Of course I use common sense as a guide as well.

Stick with what you know well

If you are a new writer, the best and easiest way to make sure your information is accurate is to stick to subjects you know well.

If you want to be a writer, you must write and write and write. Work hard to write your best and improve continually. Share your work with others and get feedback. Make sure to get constructive criticism from people who are more experienced than you and continue to write and write and write. Don’t let anyone tell you to stop writing.

So, for those who are wondering, “Can I be a writer?” please know that you can. Am I suggesting that you’ll be a best-selling author overnight? No. However, if you work hard and practice your craft, you can achieve your goals!

Take That Book Off The Back Burner – Write Now!

It may surprise you to learn that many people are partway through a writing project. But they have put their brilliant ideas on the back burner.

Take that project off the back burner, bring it to the forefront, and crank the heat to a rolling boil!

If you know what to do, get to it! Write! Don’t stop; don’t edit (just yet). Simply write and write and write. Push through the finger cramps. Down that protein drink and get those words down on paper.

Do you doubt your story idea? Don’t! It’s normal, but not very productive. Yours is a concept you’ve been mulling on for years, remember? It needs to be written, transferred from your mind to paper.

When you have your rough draft done, now you can tweak it. This is a good time to get expert advice. Either hire someone to give you their advice or find a local writers group (there are many) and get feedback. Make sure your adviser or mentor is encouraging, but honest. Friends may just give you a thumbs-up for fear of hurting your feelings. Kind, but not helpful.

Don’t let another year go by without completing your important book project! This is the year to get it finished and published!

Writing Resume

Objective: Ghostwriter

Overall Writing Philosophy:
My forte is communicating ideas effectively, in an easy to understand way. Whether I’m writing fiction, non-fiction, or articles about a complex subject, my goal is to breathe new life into the project.

Writing Experience:
1. Personal publishing credits
Mongoose Press
Chess Is Child’s Play
This is a book I authored, published through Mongoose Press, which teaches parents, of any skill level, to teach their very young children to play chess (ages 2-7).

Red Moon Press
Joshua’s Missing Peace
I ghostwrote this book and received a cover credit. This true story is about a mother whose son was put on dangerous psychiatric drugs, only to find out that he had an advanced case of strep throat.

Haiku (short poem)
•  Acorn – Spring 2011
•  Haijinx – March 2011
•  The Heron’s Nest – Sept 2011

2. Ghostwriting
October 2003 – present
• Seventeen memoirs
• Three science fiction/fantasy novels
• Seven fictional novels
• Eight how-to or business books
• Four children’s books

3. Article and Guide Writing

Yahoo! Small Business
January 2013 – Present
Feature articles for the small business owner

Move.com
July 2009 – April 2011
• Over 100 articles about mortgages and real estate
• Seven complete guides about mortgages
• A comprehensive glossary totaling over 200 terms

The Haiku Foundation
May 2010 – Nov 2010
• Three articles on haiku
• Moderator for their forum

Management Success
Sept 2010 – Feb 2011
• Seven complete newsletters
• 14 articles on automotive repair

WorldWise
Feb 2003 – May 2003
• Three how-to-booklets on pet care published by Petco

4. Chess Journalist
Inquirer.net
June 2009 – Sept 2009
Three online articles based on my experience teaching children to play chess

Southern California Chess Federation
Jan 1990 – Jan 1992
Editor and Chief of Rank and File magazine

United States Chess Federation
Jan 1990 – Jan 1998
Freelance journalist

The Advent
Sept 1981 – May 1983
High School chess correspondent

5. Screenwriting
Wild Heart Films
June 1998 – November 1998
I wrote and produced the full-length feature film In The Open.

Additional Information:
Received BS in Civil Engineering from Cal Poly Pomona
Chess Enthusiast: One of the top 50 women chess players in the US
Licensed Mortgage Broker and Founder of First Founders Financial
Independent Filmmaker: Produced three features and three shorts