How Can I Write A Book About My Life?
HOW CAN I WRITE A BOOK ABOUT MY LIFE?
A life story is something to be remembered. Writing a book is not only a great way to share such a story; it may also help and inspire those who read it.
However, many who set out to put their life story to the page are caught off guard by just how much time, energy, and commitment writing their autobiography or memoir demands.
In this article, we will go over the differences between an autobiography and a memoir, how you can start writing your own, the challenges to expect, and how to get help if needed.
What’s the difference between a biography, an autobiography, and a memoir?
The differences between the three may not be obvious, but they are actually relatively simple.
Biographies are written in the third person, with or without the subject’s direct involvement, and detail the events of the subject’s life from start to finish.
Autobiographies are written in the first person, usually, but not necessarily, by the subjects themselves. Like biographies, they detail the chronological events of the subject’s life. Because of this, many authors choose to wait until later in life to write their autobiography.
Memoirs are also written in the first person, like autobiographies, but they focus on specific moments in the subject’s life that hold significance.
Memoirs retell these significant events to reflect on them and build emotional connections with the audience. They are much more intimate than biographies and autobiographies because of this.
Consider whether it would be best to pursue a memoir or an autobiography before you start writing.
If all you desire is to record the overall events of your life with some light introspection, then an autobiography is probably best.
However, a memoir is the way to go if you have a central message to convey using your reflections on significant events in your life.
How would I get started writing it?
Where you start depends on whether you’re writing an autobiography or a memoir.
For an autobiography, you should begin outlining the events of your life in chronological order, as that will serve as the outline for your book.
This includes collecting any resources you may need to fill in gaps, especially for events in your early childhood. These could be old scrapbooks, diaries, and accounts from your parents or other relatives who recall more about an event than you do.
If writing a memoir, you should first figure out which events from your life you want to focus on.
What message do you want to convey, and how do these events relate to it?
It’s generally best to go through these events chronologically, filling in time gaps with necessary details of what happened between them.
That’s not to say that doing something different, like starting on the most pivotal moment of your life and then flashing back to explain what led up to it, can’t work. But it will complicate the structure of your book and require more skill as a writer to pull off effectively.
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What are some challenges I can expect to face?
There is a variety of challenges to be aware of, including, but not limited to:
- Writing long-form content such as a book is much easier said than done. It takes tremendous time and energy to complete such a project.
- It may be challenging to find time to write in your existing schedule.
- Even if you find time, you may not have the ability to translate the events of your life into a compelling story that will keep readers engaged. There’s no shame to this, as writing is a skill acquired over time. It’s unreasonable to expect yourself to hit the ground writing like an experienced author.
- You’ll likely have to go through several drafts of your autobiography or memoir before you have a manuscript good enough to publish. This means a lot of editing that will also take significant time and energy.
Then comes the challenge of pitching your autobiography or memoir to publishers until you get a ‘yes,’ which is the final hurdle to getting a book out there.
You can avoid this final step by choosing to self-publish, but be aware that going through established publishing houses can provide you with resources you won’t get otherwise.
Chief among these is their established marketing teams and budgets, which can go a long way to helping a book do well commercially.
If that’s a significant concern for you, it may be worth it to put in the extra effort to get a publisher.
Just know it can take a considerable time to get the book to market even after you finally get that ‘yes’ from a publisher. According to Writer’s Digest, it can take anywhere from nine months to two years for an author to go from signing the publisher’s contract to seeing their book published.
If you want to get your autobiography or memoir out into the world and aren’t as concerned about commercial success, then you can try self-publishing. Keep in mind that the initial investment and marketing effort will fall on you, and your work may not spread as quickly.
However, as this article from Forbes comparing traditional and self-publishing mentions, one of the pros of self-publishing is that you retain greater creative control over your work than if you get involved with a publisher.
How can I get assistance if I need it?
Consider hiring a ghostwriter if you find yourself in need of help writing your autobiography or memoir. They can help you extensively throughout the process, from working out the outline to writing and editing the manuscript.
In some cases, they can even assist you in finding a publisher for your work by leveraging existing connections.
You may wonder if your book will still be an autobiography or memoir if it’s ghostwritten. The answer is yes.
Since autobiographies and memoirs are differentiated from biographies by being written in the first person, it doesn’t matter if you write it yourself or have someone more experienced write it in your name.
Not only this, but because ghostwriting by nature involves the understanding and explicit permission that the work will be attributed to the client instead of the writer, it does not count as plagiarism.
For further details on how the process of developing an autobiography or memoir with a ghostwriter works, please refer to this blog’s case study on The Obedient Child.
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