Who Is on Your Memoir or Autobiography Team? Why You Need the Right Members

“A memoir is about handing over your life to someone and saying, this is what I went through, this is who I am, and maybe you can learn something from it.” — Jeannette Walls

You are thinking about writing your memoir or autobiography to record your life experiences and share them with the world.

That is a wonderful idea!

Your first instinct might be to go at it alone. So, you sit down at your computer and fire away. Then, you realize that a project such as this is not quite as straightforward as you thought.

Of course, you have a head full of ideas. But you may have some difficulty translating them into an articulated text. Moreover, this may be the first time you set out to write something of this magnitude.

For many folks, writing a memoir or autobiography is a unique undertaking. Sometimes, they lack the experience and expertise necessary to complete a writing project of this scale.

Then, there is time. Indeed, some folks do not have the time to produce a full-length book. As a result, admirable projects like memoirs and autobiographies languish. Eventually, they remain incomplete.

However, a failed project is not the worst tragedy.

The worst tragedy is depriving the world of your valuable and meaningful contribution. After all, we all have worthwhile stories and experiences to share.

With a writing team on your side, your memoir or autobiography is sure to become a reality. So, stay tuned for some great tips on how to build the right team for your writing project.

Why Should You Write Your Memoir or Autobiography?

Founding father Benjamin Franklin once said, “Either write something worth reading, or do something worth writing.”

Well, what if you have done something worth writing? Then, it is time to write something worth reading.

Undoubtedly, we all have something to share with the world. We have stories, anecdotes, experiences, wisdom, and lessons to share. Moreover, other people are interested in hearing what we have to say.

The question should not be why should you write your memoir or autobiography. The real question is why shouldn’t you!

The reality is that there is no reason why you should not put pen to paper. You have absolutely nothing to lose by communicating your singular life experience to the world.

By holding back, you deny others the wealth of your wisdom and insight. So, the real issue becomes how to get started.

Getting Started with Your Memoir or Autobiography

The first major hurdle to clear is defining whether you wish to write a memoir or an autobiography. You must first have a clear idea of which approach best fits your goals.

Memoir

The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines a memoir as a “narrative composed from personal experience.” In short, a memoir emerges from your personal account of your life. As such, a memoir must contain first-hand knowledge.

Of course, supporting information can help boost your narrative’s credibility. Nevertheless, a memoir should be your narrative above any other information source.

Also, a memoir is more akin to a snapshot of your life. It generally serves to chronicle a specific chapter in your life or career.

A classic example is the choice of former presidents: Often, ex-presidents write memoirs about their time in office. These memoirs serve a dual purpose. First, they help preserve a former president’s legacy. Second, the memoirs allow readers to gain first-hand insight into what transpired during a specific administration.

Please note that the value in a memoir lies in the privileged access to information readers get. Access to this information would not be possible without the author’s willingness to pen their life experience.

Autobiography

Now, let’s consider what an autobiography is. Merriam-Webster defines an autobiography as a “written account of a person’s life in their own words.”

As you can see, we are talking about a person, writing about themself, using their words. Thus, an autobiography is a first-person narrative that takes readers through an entire life experience.

Herein lies the biggest difference between a memoir and an autobiography.

If you aim to chronicle your entire life journey, then you must consider writing an autobiography.

However, if are interested in focusing on a specific chapter of your life, you must concentrate on writing a memoir.

Once you have made the biggest decision regarding your project, it is time to assemble your writing team.

Why Do You Need a Writing Team?

Producing a full-length book is no easy task. Therefore, you must consider all the elements that go into producing a top-notch publication.

To begin with, producing a book takes time. Unfortunately, not everyone has the time to research, write, edit, proofread, and prepare a book for publication.

Additionally, these tasks require a certain degree of experience and expertise. While you are certainly an expert in your field, you may not have the necessary knowledge and familiarity with the publishing industry.

Here is where your writing team comes into play.

Your team can handle the heavy lifting for your memoir or autobiography. They can help you translate your ideas and vision into a neat package that is ready for publication.

Furthermore, your writing team allows you to concentrate on the most important task: getting your story out to the world.

They can help you take notes, write a rough draft, and polish the final manuscript into a finished product. This endeavor is similar to polishing a diamond. You have produced the most precious part of the process already. Your team will make sure your diamond is ready to present to the public.

Putting Your Team Together

A successful writing team consists of various members. Each one plays a key role in the content’s development. Moreover, they should all work together to form a seamless unit. Ultimately, they can help you produce the high-quality material you envision.

Let’s take a look at each member in detail.

Hiring a Ghostwriter

When you hear the term “ghostwriter,” you may not be entirely sure what it means. You may have even heard negative stories about ghostwriters. However, a professional ghostwriter can mean the difference between your project gathering dust and having it come alive.

Let’s be clear about something. A ghostwriter is not going to write your memoir or autobiography for you.

A ghostwriter will merely take your ideas and thoughts and translate them into professional-grade copy. In other words, a ghostwriter has the linguistic tools to articulate your ideas in the most suitable way.

A ghostwriter’s linguistic ability makes hiring this professional a worthwhile investment in both time and effort.

First, hiring a ghostwriter saves time in terms of penning the narrative. In particular, a ghostwriter can drastically cut down the time needed to produce the bulk of a draft.

Please bear in mind that there is a specific reason behind this assumption. Professional ghostwriters measure their productivity in terms of time. An experienced ghostwriter will strive to get the job done as quickly as possible. Therefore, a talented ghostwriter will do their best to produce quality material efficiently.

Second, a professional ghostwriter will seek to get the job done right the first time. This approach prevents wasted time with lengthy revisions and costly rewrites. Ultimately, hiring a professional ghostwriter greatly facilitates the entire production process.

Renowned actor Bruce Boxleitner once remarked, “So I had a ghostwriter, they call them, or somebody who is an experienced writer, to help. I’ve got the ideas in my head. It’s getting them properly on paper.”

Indeed, these words encapsulate the role a ghostwriter can play on your team. They can make the difference between an idea floating around in your head and a work of art coming to life.

Recruiting a Historian

Historians play a key role on an autobiography or memoir team. They can help fill in gaps in ways ghostwriters cannot. By definition, historians are familiar with events surrounding specific points in time. Consequently, they can provide accuracy and credibility to any book.

At their core, memoirs and autobiographies contain first-hand accounts.

However, these accounts may require corroboration to ensure their accuracy. But this is not to say that you need to “prove” your story.

The point goes beyond that.

Crafting the entire context around the events in your narrative helps the reader understand its underpinnings. Readers need to see the broader context to grasp an author’s circumstances fully. Without this context, the reader might miss important elements of your story.

Consider this situation.

An autobiography set during the civil rights movement needs to expand out to the broader social context of the 1960s. Otherwise, the reader may not fully appreciate how meaningful the content truly is. It is the larger picture that helps readers gain a full understanding of the situation around the author.

Historians can help craft that context accurately and concisely.

Like a professional ghostwriter, a historian can help you bring your story to life. Of course, your account is compelling enough on its own. Nevertheless, a historian will help you place your narrative within its rightful historical context.

Choosing an Editor

No team would be complete without an editor. A professional editor helps you refine your book’s content. Editors play a crucial role, especially if you hope to release your book through an established publisher.

Please note that editors are not merely proofreaders.

A proofreader checks for spelling and grammar mistakes. An editor does so much more than that. A professional editor can take your narrative and provide insights on various levels.

First, an editor can provide a “developmental edit.” This type of edit consists of providing suggestions and ideas on a manuscript’s contents. For example, the editor might suggest introducing a climactic event earlier in the book. Also, an editor may suggest changing the tone or pacing of the book.

Second, an editor can provide an “editorial assessment.” This is a list of recommendations on a draft that aim to make the finished product more engaging to a target audience. For instance, an editorial assessment may suggest you use a lighter tone if you want to reach a younger audience.

Now, here is a remarkable characteristic of your autobiography or memoir team: Your chosen editor and ghostwriter can work in tandem to produce your book. This approach saves a considerable amount of time and effort. By the time a manuscript reaches your hands, you will find a neatly polished work. Then, you can provide your input.

Once you feel satisfied with the finished product, you can confidently release it.

Deciding to Hire a Proofreader

Traditionally, editors handled the proofreading process. However, the use of automated proofreading tools nowadays has drastically facilitated the proofreading process. As such, you can choose to have your writing team use automated tools to check for spelling, grammar, and punctuation.

Alternatively, you can choose to hire a professional proofreader to go over the content.

Please note that the difference between a proofreader and an editor lies in the suggestions they make.

While an editor suggests changes in the story and the narrative’s structure, a proofreader only highlights linguistic issues. Consequently, a proofreader should never make suggestions on the writing itself.

If you prefer the human touch, a professional proofreader can deliver the plus that no automated tools can.

Bringing Your Team Together

Generally speaking, there are two ways to bring your team together.

The first approach is to hire individual members. Note that you will need time to reach out to ghostwriters and editors. Then, you will need to evaluate their track records and interview them. Lastly, you will need to meet with your entire team to review your ideas.

Once you have your ideas out there, you will most likely need to share any writing you have already done or record your stories. From there, the ghostwriter will set pen to paper. Meanwhile, a historian can conduct research to provide the ghostwriter with the elements they need to craft the narrative. Finally, the editor can review the entire narrative.

The second approach is to hire a writing agency. Writing agencies typically have an in-house staff in place. As such, they are essentially a one-stop-shop. You only need to engage with a single point of accountability while ghostwriters and editors work in the background. In the end, you can involve yourself as much, or as little, as you see fit.

Whichever approach you choose, it is important to consider bringing in a writing team for your memoir or autobiography. If you decide to go at it alone, that is perfectly fine. Nevertheless, a writing team may be exactly what you need.

Conclusion

Producing an autobiography or memoir is a dedicated labor of love. It is an endeavor that requires careful planning, time, and attention. Unfortunately, you may not have the luxury of spending days, or even weeks, in front of your computer devoted solely to writing.

Suppose you feel that you cannot get around to completing your autobiography or memoir? In that case, you must consider hiring a team to help you produce your book. Hiring a professional ghostwriter, editor, historian, and proofreader can help you bring your project to fruition.

As the great poet Maya Angelou once said, “A bird doesn’t sing because it has an answer, it sings because it has a song.”

So, what are you waiting for to get your song out there? A writing team can help you get that song out of your head and into the world.

Wish My Grandfather Told me This Stuff

Norm Blake’s Book

What’s in a Name? 8 Helpful Tips for Finding the Best Title for Your Memoir

“A good title is the title of a successful book.” — Raymond Chandler

As the renowned American minister Frank Crane once said, “Next, in importance to books are their titles.”

Indeed, while a book’s content is its most significant attribute, a bad title can do a book a huge disservice. After all, readers judge books by both cover and title.

If an author wants their memoir to have a chance, they must first give it a good title.

But what makes a title “good”?

In this article, we will explore eight helpful tips for finding the best title for your memoir.

8 Helpful Tips for Finding the Best Title for Your Memoir

Tip #1: Keep it Simple

Frequently, authors feel tempted to incorporate outlandish titles for their books. The aim is to shock and awe would-be readers.

The rationale is to pique readers’ curiosity just enough to give their books a chance. However, this strategy can backfire quite easily.

Firstly, an extravagant title, especially for a memoir, may not convey the subject’s personality appropriately. Consequently, it may build an inaccurate image.

Secondly, over-the-top titles may not necessarily reflect the book’s content. Therefore, readers might misunderstand the memoir’s general message. As a result, readers may choose to pass on it.

Consider this example:

The Wild and Unforgettable Life of the One and Only John Doe.

The title above is certainly eye-catching. Nevertheless, it fails to express what the book represents. After all, would readers be truly interested in this character’s remarkable life?

As Leonardo DaVinci famously put it, “Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication.”

Opting for a title such as “An Extraordinary Life Journey by John Doe” better communicates an essential element: John Doe’s life was an extraordinary journey. As such, readers can expect to go on a journey as they read the book.

In the end, readers can expect to come away with a singular experience.

Tip #2: Focus on Tone

Often, titles miss the mark by not settling on the memoir’s tone. After all, memoirs can have a myriad of tones. Some are solemn; others are hopeful. Some memoirs are serious, while others are fun and playful. Therefore, the title must match the book’s tone.

Consider this example:

Emerging from the Shadows: A Journey from Obscurity to Prominence.

What tone does this title convey?

Initially, one might assume the title signals an inspirational story. Hence, readers would assume the memoir is filled with stories about overcoming struggles.

However, if readers find a collection of disjointed anecdotes masquerading as humor, they may find the book disappointing at best.

Ideally, a memoir’s title must give the reader a good sense of the book’s overall tone. In the example above, perhaps a less serious title would serve the book best.

Consider this possibility:

How I Made It: My Journey to the Top of the Mountain.

In this version, the reader can glean an inspirational story. However, the title is less solemn and more lighthearted. Thus, the memoir’s contents would better match its title.

The renowned Israeli writer Etgar Keret summarizes this by stating, “I think tone gives birth to the story.”

Undoubtedly, giving a title the wrong tone does a major disservice to the project’s entire purpose.

Tip #3: Choose A One- or Two-Part Title

Most book titles nowadays consist of two parts. This practice is highly common in the nonfiction domain. Many authors believe it is necessary since it enables them to narrow down on the book’s precise contents.

As for memoirs, they are seemingly in the middle of the fiction and nonfiction domains. On the one hand, memoirs are factual. On the other, they are artwork. As a result, authors must ask themselves, “Is my book more art or more fact?” The answer to this question would reveal the way to go.

Memoirs scripted as novels should consider a one-part title. For instance:

A Memorable Walk Through Life.

In this one-part title, the author looks to communicate an artistic rendition of the subject’s life. As such, readers can expect facts wrapped up in colorful prose.

Now, consider this alternative:

Great Business Leaders: The Life of Jane Doe.

This two-part title indicates that Jane Doe was a great business leader. Therefore, readers can expect a more journalistic, matter-of-fact approach with this memoir. Indeed, this title resonates much more like a nonfiction title than a novel.

Like tone, a one- or two-part title must accurately reflect the book’s purpose. Serious works benefit more from a two-part title, whereas creative narratives do well with a unique one-part title.

Tip #4: Tell the Truth

Telling the truth pertains to accurately representing the book’s core message.

Unfortunately, some authors believe that using misleading titles will translate into more sales. Their rationale focuses on enticing readers. Once readers pick up a copy, the sale goes through, and the money is in the bank.

However, word gets around quickly. Consequently, misleading titles will kill book sales in a heartbeat.

Some authors also use salacious titles to drive public interest. The expectation that builds on such titles may initially drive sales. However, the book had better deliver on its title. Otherwise, the disappointment could leave the book dead in the water.

Consider this title:

The Secret Life of King John Doe: The Untold Tales.

A title this scandalous suggests a collection of titillating stories never heard before. As such, the book needs to deliver. Anything short of outrageous stories will miss the mark.

Additionally, a shortage of “untold” stories would certainly kill the book’s momentum.

Motivational speaker and bestselling author Larry Winget offers this insight:

“I write titles that are confrontational. I write titles that make people want to pick up a book and find out more about it. I write good books; I write great titles though.”

A “great” title on a “good” book may come up short. Ideally, authors should strive for a great title on a great book. That aim is possible when the title accurately represents the book’s contents.

Tip #5: Get to the Point

There is nothing more counterproductive than an ambiguous title.

An ambiguous title defeats a memoir’s purpose by confusing the reader. After all, an unclear title makes it hard for the reader to ascertain the book’s contents.

Consider this title:

An Amazing Life Story.

The title above, while certainly poetic, does not tell the reader what the story contains. Consequently, the reader may not feel compelled to pick up a copy of the book.

In contrast, a well-crafted title would make it much easier for the reader’s curiosity to kick in.

Book publishing consultant Nancy Peske offers this succinct tidbit: “Think about word combinations that capture the heart and soul of your story.”

Indeed, the aim is to capture the memoir’s heart and soul. For that to happen, however, the writer must be clear on what that heart and soul are.

Memoir writers must understand the message they want to transmit. Often, this message gets lost in a sea of anecdotes. Thus, the title can serve as a guiding beacon for the writing process.

With the above example, a two-part title can help drill the point home. Consider this alternative:

An Amazing Life Story: Success in the Face of Disability.

This alternate title indicates the memoir’s message. The reader can expect to find an inspirational story of someone who overcame their disabilities to find success in life.

Tip #6: Do the Research

Inspiration can hit at any time. And a great title can suddenly appear when least expected.

However, there is one catch: The amazing title you just came up with may already be taken by someone else.

Undoubtedly, coming up with a great title is the first step in any great book. Nevertheless, it is crucial to do a cursory online search to determine if the title already exists.

In the worst cases, the title is already in use, or another very similar form of it. Therefore, there is a need to change the title to avoid copyright issues.

On top of that, there is another more compelling reason to check out memoir titles. Book publishers tend to frown upon book titles that are too similar to that of another already published book.  

When this happens, publishers are often quick to change the book’s title, especially if they like the content. This situation could lead to unwanted conflict between author and publisher.

Thus, it is best to do away with all the drama. Once again, Nancy Peske offers this insightful piece of advice: “Let’s say a quick Internet search reveals that no one has used your memoir title except perhaps for one article and certainly not for a book. That’s a good sign that you have or are close to having a terrific title for your memoir!”  

An original book title is crucial to a great memoir’s success.

Tip #7: Don’t Forget About Marketing

At its core, a title is a book’s first line of marketing. Naturally, a great title will drive sales. In contrast, a bad title may hold sales back. When sales are a primary objective, a great title is an essential tool.

Seasoned memoir veteran Jerry Wexler provides this highly useful reflection: “If a book’s title tickles my interest, I move to the next step. I look at the blub or description and read reviews online. If still curious, I look up the author’s home page, blogs, and social media. However, I continue to rely on the title as the centerpiece for all this interest.”

This reflection pinpoints the importance of a book’s title. Readers do not focus on reviews, comments, or even visit an author’s website unless the book title somehow appeals to them.

It should not come as a surprise to see interest dwindle due to a bad title. Of course, great reviews may rekindle interest. However, good comments may not be enough to overcome a bad title.

Great titles usually have a catchy component to them. That component often comes from somewhere in the book.

When authors struggle to come up with a title, they can resort to the text itself. It is quite common to find some phrase or line that encompasses the memoir’s spirit. As such, authors should not be afraid to borrow from their own ideas.

Tip #8: Create a Personal Connection

Undoubtedly, generic book titles will derail any momentum a book can generate.

A title such as The Life Story of Jane Doe is as bland as it gets.

Needless to say, titles such as these do little to forge a personal connection with the reader.

A personal connection should also emerge with the author.

After all, this is the author telling their story through their voice.

As a result, the title must materialize from within the author.

Jerry Wexler has this to say about the personal connection a memoir can create in the reader:

“After we close the book for the last time, we continue to associate the story with its title. So, when you look for the best possible title, consider the image it will leave. The title should haunt readers, please them, and continue to evoke images. Ideally, the title should roll off the reader’s tongue when friends ask for a recommendation.”

This savvy piece of advice encapsulates the purpose of a superb title. When a title creates a personal connection, it will “haunt” readers well after they have finished the book. In some cases, their connection may last a lifetime.

Something deeply personal such as Uphill Battle: How I Beat the Most Challenging Enemy of my Life has the potential to strike an extremely personal chord with readers. The outcome may well be a profound link between reader and author.

Conclusion

International bestselling author J.K. Rowling once said, “I do believe something very magical can happen when you read a good book.”

Of course, this quote goes beyond the obvious connection with the magical theme of her books. This quote underscores how significant a book can become in a person’s life.

All of that begins with a great title. A great title should not just be a piece of great marketing copy. It should also be a personal message the author wants to communicate to their readers.

A creative narrative should explore a unique one-part title. This title should encompass the very essence of the book’s message. By the same token, a more solemn memoir should consider a two-part title. The title would then provide enough material to entice the reader’s curiosity.

Ultimately, great titles boil down to sharing the author’s internal passion. With such efforts, the title can haunt the reader well after flipping through to the last page.

9 Reasons Why You Should Write an Autobiography

Academy Award-winning actor Sidney Poitier once remarked, “My autobiography was simply the story of my life.”

Indeed, an autobiography is testament to a life well-lived. However, some erroneously believe that an autobiography’s subject must be a celebrity or wealthy person.

The truth is that anyone can write an autobiography. After all, there is nothing egocentric about chronicling one’s journey through life. The ups and downs that characterize lives provide sufficient reason to produce an autobiography.

In this article we will explore nine reasons why writing an autobiography in 2021 is a worthwhile endeavor.

9 Reasons Why You Should Write an Autobiography in 2021

1. It provides a legacy for future generations.

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A legacy is an important part of a well-lived life. After all, a legacy is an indelible memento that lives on for generations.

As the great poet Maya Angelou put it, “If you’re going to live, leave a legacy. Make a mark on the world that can’t be erased.” Undoubtedly, a legacy can serve as an enduring fingerprint.

Indeed, future generations can recall truly remarkable lives. Nevertheless, memories tend to fade with time. Eventually, these amazing lives may get lost in the sands of time. Thus, it is crucial to chronicle such lives in a lasting format.

Consequently, the foremost reason for writing an autobiography is to set the record straight. An autobiography should serve as a personal, first-hand account about valuable life experiences. As such, the enduring legacy morphs into pearls of perpetual wisdom.

An autobiography allows these pearls to move from generation to generation. After all, words recorded on a page cannot fade away easily.

2. It helps you take your place in history.

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Every person that has ever existed occupies a place in history. Sadly, the vast majority of them lose their voices over time. Memories fade and die away with each passing generation. And over time, each current generation forgets the contributions their ancestors made in shaping who they are today.

Writing an autobiography enables the author to claim their rightful place in history. Moreover, the author can tell their story in their voice. As a result, autobiographers plant flags that no one can remove. Future generations can then take these flags as the roadmap to a brighter tomorrow.

Greek statesman and general Pericles famously said, “What you leave behind is not what is engraved in stone monuments, but what is woven into the lives of others.”

Unquestionably, time decays even the largest of monuments. Nature can destroy them. However, no force can shatter the fabric of the human spirit.

Time will inexorably pass. With it, memories of great people will perish unless they claim their rightful spot in history. An autobiography is an ideal means of asserting one’s position in the scope of yesteryear.

3. You can better understand your life’s journey.

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It is highly common for people to feel disconnected from their identity. After all, it can be somewhat difficult to carve an identity without understanding the journey leading up to the present.

The immortal Greek philosopher Aristotle said, “Knowing yourself is the beginning of all wisdom.” Knowing oneself leads to understanding one’s journey.

Of course, there are times in which the past is murky at best. However, clarity can come from an autobiography.

An autobiography is an exercise in self-discovery. It allows the author room to explore their journey. As a result, knowledge of oneself emerges as the journey comes into focus. The written chronicle enables the reader to glimpse into the magical path of self-discovery. Hopefully, this path will also help the reader discover their path.

It is worth noting that an autobiography should not be a bullet-point list of events and facts. Instead, an autobiography should provide a narrative that facilitates exploring the journey of self-discovery. The reader can then take this journey and use it for their benefit.

The most inspirational autobiographies give readers an opportunity to reflect on their journey. Most importantly, superb autobiographies profoundly connect with readers. Wonderful autobiographies are like mirrors in which readers can see their reflections.

4. Writing an autobiography is great therapy!

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Psychologists often recommend that their patients write their thoughts and feelings. The aim is for individuals to make sense of their emotions by articulating them.

At first, these thoughts might lack clarity and direction. Nevertheless, they begin to take shape as the writing process continues.

Writing an autobiography is a process that requires the author to explore their emotions at various junctions of their life. However, the autobiographical process reviews the author’s life with the benefit of hindsight. Hence, the healing process can consequently emerge.

As a renowned writer and journalist Graham Greene put it, “Writing is a form of therapy; sometimes I wonder how all those who do not write, compose, or paint can manage to escape the madness, melancholia, the panic, and fear which is inherent in a human situation.”

Indeed, human nature is rife with a myriad of emotions, both negative and positive. Therefore, writing serves to dissipate such emotions and achieve clarity.

Often, autobiographies emerge from journaling. Personal journals are the ideal source material for great autobiographies. After all, journals allow autobiographers to go back in time to see their state of mind at the time of writing. From there, hindsight can begin to make sense of it all.

5. It helps you establish connections.

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Modern technology and on-the-go lifestyles can often lead to isolation. It is quite easy to lose focus due to the multiple distractions that abound. The ensuing disconnect can lead individuals to miss their place within society.

When writing an autobiography, the author must establish a connection within their immediate social circle and society as a whole. After all, the surrounding social environment directly influences the author’s actions and reactions.

The social environment can provide valuable clues to understand the context in which the autobiographical exercise takes place.

Humanitarian and philanthropist Melinda Gates once said, “Deep human connection is… the purpose and the result of a meaningful life – and it will inspire the most amazing acts of love, generosity, and humanity.”

Undoubtedly, having a deep human connection with the world helps individuals express their humanity. Consequently, an autobiography can become a vehicle for such connections.

The writing process enables authors to see where they fit within their social context on a personal level.

More often than not, autobiographers realize they have played a far more important role than they could have ever imagined. As a result, the writing process is nothing more than a record of their noteworthy contributions.

6. It gives you a new sense of purpose.

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It is not uncommon to go through life perceiving a lack of purpose. Whether conscious or not, all people go through life with a purpose driving them.

Naturally, everyone’s purpose differs. However, that purpose does not generally come into focus without careful and dedicated reflection. Hence, the autobiographical process affords those moments of reflection.

Legendary Russian author Fyodor Dostoyevsky penned, “The mystery of human existence lies not just in staying alive, but in finding something to live for.”

Indeed, everyone lives for a reason. The issue is that not everyone is fully aware of this reason.

Writing an autobiography allows the author to explore their life’s purpose. Furthermore, it allows the reader to assess theirs. In the end, the autobiographical process permits a two-way conversation in which each interlocutor can reflect on their purpose.

Please bear in mind that developing a sense of purpose is an ongoing pursuit. As such, an autobiography is akin to a collection of snapshots. Once put together, each snapshot articulates an overarching purpose.

7. You’ll make new contacts.

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It may seem somewhat surprising to think how an autobiography can lead to making new contacts. A published autobiography (self-published, digital, or traditional) promotes exposure. On the surface, making new contacts may not seem like an obvious consequence, but it can certainly happen.

For some professionals, a memoir or autobiography serves to boost their visibility. As a result, their work helps create more awareness. Also, writing a book, any book, is an important milestone, especially in academic fields.

Some writers may struggle with putting pen to paper. To remedy this situation, they seek writing groups or communities. In these groups, writers find support from other like-minded individuals.

Consequently, this support allows struggling autobiographers to get through any obstacles standing in their way.

Overall, making new contacts may appear to be an indirect consequence of penning an autobiography. Ultimately, though, it may prove to be the most valuable result of all.

8. It’s an exciting process!

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There are times when life seems stuck in a rut. Perhaps long-put-off projects lurk in the back of one’s mind. Or one may even be at a crossroads in life.

Whatever the case, writing an autobiography is an important box to check off one’s bucket list.

In the words of renowned actress Mia Farrow, “My father always told me I should be a writer, and I found I loved writing my autobiography; writing is such an interesting process.”

These words echo a truth regarding the autobiographical process: One does not need to be a writer to produce a quality autobiography. Writing an autobiography should not be a chore. Instead, penning one’s life story should be a labor of love.

It is the culmination of many memorable chapters while looking toward the following ones.

Indeed, writing an autobiography should bring a sense of joy and excitement into one’s life. Undoubtedly, some may find the writing process difficult at first. Nevertheless, that is where the beauty of the process lies.

The writing process is just another memorable journey in a wonderful existence. It is a process worth cherishing. Ultimately, the reader will imbibe the genuine emotions contained on every page.

9. It’ll unleash your creativity.

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Producing autobiographical work is an exercise in creative writing. Thus, an autobiography should never be just a collection of facts and dates. If anything, such a work would resemble a résumé instead of an autobiography.

As novelist and essayist Chloe Thurlow put it, “An autobiography is a precious broken vase pieced painstakingly together still showing the chips and cracks.” As such, presenting a laundry list of data does little to reveal the uniqueness of that broken vase. Incorporating creative writing allows the author to fit the pieces together as neatly as possible.

In contrast, presenting a list of facts leaves many gaps in the overall picture. As a result, the reader will never fully grasp the real person behind the data. Therefore, autobiographers must unleash their creativity.

Of course, it is important to differentiate between creativity and embellishment.

Some authors use outrageous language to create an effect. While that approach is certainly valid, the main objective is to present the truth. From there, readers can build their assumptions about the true character.

In the end, an autobiography should resemble a novel. The narrative grows in the author’s voice. By the last sentence, the entire painstaking process of fitting each piece together will have become evident.

Helpful Tip: Don’t be afraid to hire a ghostwriter.

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Writing an autobiography does not necessarily entail producing words. In fact, it is quite common for autobiographers to hire a ghostwriter to help produce a final volume.

In those cases, the author’s voice is still present in the narrative. The difference lies in employing the assistance of a professional writer to facilitate the process. After all, not everyone has the time, skills, or experience to produce a full-length book.

The most important consideration is to portray the subject as realistically as possible. As a result, ghostwriters should not take any creative license. The subject’s voice, personality, and character must be present at all times.

Often, ghostwriters conduct interviews to gain a clear understanding of the subject. Then, multiple revisions ensure the subject’s true character emerges on every page.

Therefore, the subject ought to be present throughout the entire process. Otherwise, the book will shift from an autobiography to a biography.

Additionally, ghostwriters may take a collection of journals or memoirs and articulate them into a single narrative. This approach would constitute an autobiography as the writing help mainly focuses on editing rather than creating.

Conclusion

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Writing an autobiography may seem like a daunting task at first. However, there is no reason why anyone should hold back. After all, there are countless individuals out there with extraordinary stories to tell.

There are plenty of reasons why anyone ought to pen their story. It is just a matter of allowing the creative juices to flow freely. And, if necessary, enlisting a professional ghostwriter to aid in the writing process.

The outcome will indeed have a lasting impact on people across generations to come.

Four Great Autobiographies Written with the Help of a Ghostwriter

“All of our experiences fuse into our personality. Everything that ever happened to us is an ingredient.” — Malcolm X

There is a common misconception about ghostwriting. In general, some people believe ghostwriting is one person taking credit for someone else’s work.

In reality, ghostwriting consists of an individual enlisting the help of a professional writer to aid them in finding their true voice.

For many folks, writing does not come easily. Therefore, the help of a professional writer allows them to get their message out to the world. The difference lies in the writer not getting their name on the book.

When it comes to autobiographies, ghostwriters make many of them possible. Ghostwriters help individuals write their life story, especially when they lack the time, skill, and experience to write for themselves.

In this article, we will explore four great autobiographies that were (surprisingly!) written with the help of a ghostwriter.

Four Great Autobiographies Written with the Help of a Ghostwriter

1. An American Life by Ronald Reagan

The world remembers Ronald Reagan as the 40th president of the United States. He is one of America’s most renowned and beloved presidents. In particular, his origins as an actor and entertainer diverged from a traditional political career.

After successfully running for governor of California in 1966, Regan held this office from 1967 to 1975.

Regan first ran for president in 1975. However, his unsuccessful bid did not stop him from running once again in 1980. This time, he succeeded in defeating incumbent Jimmy Carter.

Reagan became president in 1981 and left office in 1989 after serving two terms.

His presidency featured several historic events, including an assassination attempt. Additionally, Reagan was outspoken on several social, political, and economic issues. His beliefs cemented his position in American politics.

After leaving office, Reagan published his autobiography titled An American Life in 1990. The book received positive reviews. It reached the eighth spot on the New York Times Best Seller list.  Nevertheless, the most interesting fact about the book was its author.

Contrary to popular belief, Reagan did not write the book himself. Instead, former New York Times journalist Robert Lindsey was the author behind the cover. Though he did not receive credit for the book, it is a well-known fact that Lindsey was the book’s true writer.

A 1990 review by The New York Times’s Maureen Dowd offers the following opinion on the book’s prose:

Reading this book is like listening to the stories of a kindly uncle: some are interesting, some are skewed, most are familiar. Capturing Mr. Reagan’s voice perfectly, Mr. Lindsey has strung together anecdotes, speeches, ideology, and accounts of the high points and low points of the Reagan Presidency — Lebanon, Grenada, tax reform, arms control, the Iran-contra affair, the assassination attempt, the summits with Mikhail Gorbachev, the romance with his wife, Nancy. Great care is taken to maintain the courtly Reagan image, even to blanking out the middle letters of such mild swearwords in his diary entries as ‘hell’ and ‘damn.’”

This evaluation of Robert Lindsey’s prose shows the great care that professional ghostwriters take in ensuring they capture their client’s thoughts and feelings.

Undoubtedly, great ghostwriters can take a stale collection of facts and transform them into literary artworks.

Indeed, “An American Life” cultivates Ronald Reagan’s public persona without descending into flattery. This book is far from a puff piece. While critics claim this book portrays Reagan in a favorable light, it offers valuable insights into the life of a prominent historical figure.

2. The Age of Turbulence by Alan Greenspan

Alan Greenspan’s lengthy career in American politics is renowned for his time as Chairman of the Federal Reserve. Specifically, Greenspan chaired the Federal Reserve from 1987 to 2006.

During his tenure, he dealt with the 1987 stock market crash, the 2000 Dot Com Bubble, and numerous economic and political issues.

Following his retirement, Greenspan published his autobiography, The Age of Turbulence, in 2007. The book debuted at number one on the New York Times Best Seller list. In addition, Greenspan purportedly received an $8 million advance from Penguin Press.

It is worth noting that Greenspan is no stranger to writing. There are numerous books to his credit. In particular, he published three books before his autobiography. Nevertheless, “The Age of Turbulence” came out in 2007 officially under Greenspan’s name, with co-author Peter Petre receiving acknowledgment for his contributions.

Petre is a former executive editor at Fortune magazine. He lists his famous collaborations on his website, including this one with Alan Greenspan.

Technically, this was not a ghostwritten book, as Peter Petre did receive recognition for his contributions. However, his name does not appear on the book cover. Hence, this book was truly a ghostwritten endeavor.

According to Penguin, the book’s publisher, “The Age of Turbulence will stand as Alan Greenspan’s personal and intellectual legacy.” Indeed, the publisher recognizes this as Greenspan’s work while omitting his ghostwriter’s contributions.

According to Greenspan, he began writing his autobiography the day he left the Federal Reserve in January 2006. In particular, he told USA Today in 2007, “I was trying to hold the whole book in my head at the same time, and I knew if I took two weeks off, it would just spill away, and I’d have to pick up again.”

It seems evident that Greenspan had plenty of ideas rumbling around in his mind. Hence, the need for a ghostwriter/co-author makes sense. Specifically, Greenspan’s publisher pushed him to publish the book on short notice. Consequently, the need for a ghostwriter’s help became evident.

Ultimately, “The Age of Turbulence” received mixed reviews. However, Benjamin Friedman of the New York Review of Books called it “clearly written and easy to read and understand.” As such, it is apparent that this book got its message across.

For his part, Petre offers this insight into his collaboration with Greenspan:

“To tell his story, we developed an unorthodox structure for the book. The first half is a carefully woven, drily humorous memoir in which the reader joins the intellectual journey that brought Greenspan from a lower middle-class boyhood in New York through a discipleship with Ayn Rand and into the strange priesthood of central banking. The second half of the book is a fascinating tour d’horizon as Greenspan explores the world’s economies and lays out bold precepts and concrete predictions about decades to come.”

Undoubtedly, this collaboration proved successful. Greenspan met his deadlines, while the book received mostly positive press across the board.

3. The Autobiography of Ulysses S. Grant by Ulysses S. Grant

History recalls Ulysses S. Grant as the 18th president of the United States. He is also memorable for his role in the U.S. Civil War. He was a general fighting for the North, and ultimately, to keep the United States together. His military exploits earned him admiration and fame throughout the country. This recognition catapulted him to his election in 1868. He took office in 1869 and completed his second term in 1877. Among his distinctions was the nickname “Uncle Sam.”

The National Constitution Center’s 10 Fascinating Facts about President Ulysses Grant states in #9 that President Grant was a “gifted writer.” On the surface, there is reason to believe this is true. Grant’s autobiography, “The Autobiography of General Ulysses S. Grant: Memoirs of the Civil War,” is notable for its collection of clever prose and abundant historical information. Scholars all agree that this work is one of the most valuable pieces of military history. However, little is overt about the obscure collaboration between President Grant and Mark Twain.

Surprisingly, President Grant was a longtime friend of American literary giant Mark Twain. According to the official narrative, Twain encouraged his friend to write his memoirs following his retirement from office. Unfortunately, Grant was reluctant to write his memoirs, despite numerous offers. In particular, Grant refused to publish anything since he was “no writer.”

Ultimately, Grant begrudgingly accepted, as he found himself in ill health and financially distressed. Initially, Grant wrote a series of articles for Century Magazine. The publishers asked Grant to expand the series of articles he had written into a full-blown memoir. However, his frail health and rapidly advancing cancer made it quite difficult for him to write. Twain then decided to help his longtime friend.

The official story states that Twain devised a witty marketing scheme for Grant’s book. However, Grant died before the book reached publication. The original 350,000 print run sold out within weeks.

Nevertheless, Grant’s failing health made it extremely unlikely that he would have completed the book without support.

As such, Twain helped his dear friend finish his memoirs. However, Twain would never admit to this. After all, doing so would have damaged his friend’s legacy.

Thus, while it is clear that Twain helped Grant cement his legacy, Twain would never take credit for his friend’s stories.

4. 7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen R. Covey

The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People” is one of the most successful books in history. First published in 1989, the book went on to sell over 25 million copies worldwide. In addition, it is one of the most influential self-help books, helping launch the self-help book genre through the roof.

There is no denying the book’s valuable insights and contributions to helping people improve their overall lives and achieve goals. In 2011, Time included “The 7 Habits” in its list of the 25 Most Influential Management Books.

Stephen R. Covey is a world-famous management guru. Sadly, he passed away in 2012, but not without leaving quite a legacy. His legacy includes dozens of books ranging from management to spirituality. “The 7 Habits” is technically more a memoir than an autobiography. In this volume, Covey shared the vision that led him to become a highly successful person himself.

Despite its success for Covey, “The 7 Habits” was the result of ghostwriter intervention. Ken Shelton, founder, CEO, and editor-in-chief of the firm Executive Excellence has received credit for his role in “The 7 Habits” as a writer/editor.  This fact should not be surprising at all.

Most renowned authors employ ghostwriters, co-authors, and editors to keep up with publishing demand. After all, for many writers it is challenging to produce more than one book per year. Even prolific writers such as legend Stephen King have their limitations. King reportedly has claimed that he writes about 2,000 words per day.

It is worth noting that Stephen King is the exception rather than the norm. Most authors, in particular novelists, often write at a glacial speed.

As for nonfiction, authors generally require time to conduct research and go through numerous revisions to ensure accuracy. As a result, publishing multiple books a year necessitates the help of additional writers.

Does this make ghostwriting unethical?

Hardly. “The 7 Habits” proves that authors are brands.

Consequently, they must strive to keep up with demand. Logically, this implies enlisting help whenever possible. Otherwise, authors would have to devote their entire time to writing and research. Even so, they may be unable to keep up with their publishers’ demands. Fortunately, there are writers such as Ken Shelton who are there to keep the line moving.

Conclusion

While credited to a specific author, some of the world’s most renowned works are, in reality, the result of a hardworking writer toiling in the background. Indeed, the work of ghostwriters has helped shape modern culture. For example, without Mark Twain’s intervention, Ulysses S. Grant’s autobiography would not have reached the public. Moreover, self-help masterpieces such as “The 7 Habits” may have never seen publication.

Despite public misconception about ghostwriting, the fact remains that ghostwriters provide a valuable service to culture, academics, and science. Ultimately, talented and highly intelligent individuals such as Alan Greenspan need a helping hand in producing their works, particularly under time pressure.

There is a myriad of reasons why ghostwriters come into play. However, one thing is certain: Ghostwriters enable great stories to reach a hungry audience. Ghostwriters are the worker bees of the publishing world.

Does my autobiography/memoir need a narrative arc?

At its best, a memoir or autobiography is more than just a retelling of someone’s life. It pulls you in and makes you feel what they felt and compels you to cheer them on, hoping for a happy ending.

It’s not a checklist of events, it’s a story. Perhaps it’s your story.

It’s not always the actual events of one’s life that make for a great book, but the way you lay out those events in your book.

In 2005, a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist for the Los Angeles Times, J. R. Moehringer, released his memoir The Tender Bar. Believe it or not, his life as a journalist is but a small part of the third act.

His story is that of a boy whose father is nothing more than a voice on the radio, a disc jockey who moves around a lot. As you read The Tender Bar, you follow J.R. as he tries to learn how to be a man. And instead of his father, a group of men at the local tavern become his father-by-committee and the bar becomes his sanctuary.

The beauty of The Tender Bar is the natural story arc. It keeps you reading and wondering how the story will end. Does he ever connect with his father? Will the bar, in the end, become a blessing or a crutch?

The characters are mesmerizing, and the story has everything you’d want in a feature-length movie. In fact, George Clooney is making that movie right now!

The Tender Bar is a memoir, but it reads like a novel because it has a wonderful narrative arc. If you want your story to stand out and compel readers to keep turning those pages, finding your narrative arc is the ticket.

What is a Narrative Arc?

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Simply put, a narrative arc is the structure of a story. One of the most basic models you’ll see is the 3-part model that consists of a beginning, a middle, and the end.

However, you can get a little better understanding if you think of it like this:

1. Inciting Event – This happens in the first part of the story and it’s the event that puts everything else in motion.

2. Climax – The climax is the peak of the action, the big dramatic moment where everything is at stake. It can be a big battle scene or an emotional encounter, but it is the moment everyone has been waiting for.

3. Resolution – Once the climax has come to its conclusion, it’s time to deal with the new reality. What has the climax created?

Let’s take a look at an example most of us would be familiar with: The Lion King.

Inciting Event — Scar lures Simba and Nala to the elephant graveyard where his hyenas try to kill them. He also lures Mufasa to the scene where he can kill him. The death of Mufasa, makes Simba run away, both out of fear and guilt.

Climax — Simba returns to the Pridelands. Scar and Simba have an epic fight. Scar tells Simba that he, not Simba killed Mufasa. This marks both a climax in action as well as an emotional climax as Simba finally learns that his father’s death was not his fault. Of course, Simba wins the fight.

Resolution — Simba takes the throne of the Pridelands and restores peace, harmony, and Hakuna Matata-like feelings for all.

Autobiography vs. Memoir

One of the primary factors you’ll want to consider when deciding if you want to follow a narrative arc in your book is whether you are writing an autobiography or a memoir. Here’s how they differ:

Autobiography – More straightforward and chronological. Usually covers the subject’s whole life. As a step-by-step telling of the facts, it may be less inclined towards a narrative arc, but it can still be done.

Memoir – Usually focused on one portion of the subject’s life. This can be a specific time or a theme. Regardless, memoirs tend to be less formal and rely heavily on emotion and personal realizations. This makes them a natural fit for narrative arc structure.

Examples of Memoirs with Narrative Arc

Memoirs have boomed over the last 30 years or so and many of the most successful ones were later turned into movies. Why? Because they told a story worthy of the silver screen that could captivate an audience. Here are just a few examples.

Eat, Pray, Loveby Elizabeth Gilbert

Rather than a retelling of her entire life, this book focuses on a journey of self-care and self-discovery that connected emotionally with millions.

Inciting Event – Gilbert recalls sitting on the floor and thinking, “I don’t want to be married anymore.” This leads to the journey of self-discovery.

Climax – Gilbert comes to terms with her ended marriage while in Ashram, India. Acceptance.

Resolution – Now that Gilbert is more self-aware, she is able to fall in love again.

Angela’s Ashes – by Frank McCourt

This Pulitzer Prize winner doesn’t even make it to McCourt’s 20’s. It’s the tale of his childhood and the hardships he endured until he finally made his way to America at the age of 19. It’s a story of perseverance, hardship, and more than a little humor as well.

Inciting Event – The McCourt’s move from New York back to Ireland.

Climax – McCourt confesses his many sins and accepts absolution.

Resolution – McCourt finds his way back to New York to start a new life.

A Walk in the Woods – by Bill Bryson

This memoir is about just what its title says: a walk in the woods. Okay, so it ends up being around 800 miles of walking on the 2,200-mile-long Appalachian Trail, with an out-of-shape and obnoxious buddy for companionship. Hilarity ensues and life lessons are learned.

Inciting Event – Bryson moves back to the U.S. after years of living in Europe. Excited to rediscover his country, he decides to take on the Appalachian Trail.

Climax – Bryson loses track of his hiking partner, finally finding him wounded, but safe enough.

Resolution – The pair admit defeat and return to their lives but retain a bit of pride for the distance over the Appalachian Trail they did travel, and the lessons learned.

These are just a few examples of memoirs that became movies, but that doesn’t mean that all memoirs with narrative arcs are full-on film fodder.

The key take-away here is that they were books first and written so well that they became bestsellers and then eventually movies. That only happens if the story is good, and the emotions reach readers. 

It’s Your Life, Your Story

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So how can you (or your ghostwriter) incorporate this into your memoir or autobiography?

Think about it this way – how does your book end? Your life is a journey, and even though it’s not done, your book will be finished. What’s that ending spot?

Once you know that, you can think about how you got there. Was there an inciting event that set the wheels in motion? When did things come to a head?

Map it out before you start writing and you may be surprised to find that your story has a nice, clear narrative arc if you choose to follow it.

Your life is more than just a string of events. It’s a story. Your story. Tell it like one.

Copywriter Q&A: Jessica Stautberg Discusses the Art of Writing an Unforgettable Memoir

With over a decade of writing experience, Jessica Stautberg has written content for everything from websites and blogs to books and press releases. At The Writers For Hire (TWFH), Jessica serves as our lead copywriter, and is also one of our experts on writing memoirs and autobiographies.

In this installment of our Copywriter Q&A series, we talked to Jessica about what defines a memoir, and asked for her tips and advice for ensuring that your memoir is unforgettable.


TWFH: Let’s start with the basics. What’s the difference between a memoir and an autobiography?

JS: A memoir has a more specific topic or time period. For example, a veteran might write a  memoir about his/her experiences during war, or a recovering alcoholic might write about his/her struggle with the disease. An autobiography encompasses more of a person’s entire life story.

TWFH: How do you decide if you want to write a memoir or an autobiography?

JS: Ask yourself what you want the reader to know about you. Are you giving them an account of your entire life? Or are you trying to give them a sense of what it feels like to be, for example, someone struggling with cancer treatment/growing up in poverty/breaking a barrier, etc.

TWFH: Can you talk a little about how memoir and fiction are similar?

JS: In addition to being more specific and not all encompassing, a memoir relies more on emotion and feeling to convey the writer’s experiences. So, it might read more like fiction by using more metaphors, imagery, etc.

TWFH: How much “truth” does a memoir need? Is it more important to tell the facts or to get the “essence” of the story and make sure that the emotion comes across?

JS: I think both are important, but people can’t remember all the minute details that writers often use to create a scene or convey a feeling. When writing a memoir, I think you should get the big, important facts right (as much as possible), and take liberty with descriptive details and dialogue.

TWFH: Is there ever a point when you can embellish too much or take too many liberties? A point where it’s no longer a memoir?

JS: Yes, I think once you’re starting to fictionalize some of the bigger plot points of the memoir, then you’re heading into “fictional work based on real life” territory.

TWFH: How do you keep a memoir interesting – especially if you’re writing one for an “average” person (not a celebrity or someone who has lived a super-exciting life)?

JS: Apply some of the elements of a novel to your memoir: You have a protagonist with a specific motivation who faces conflicts over the course of the story, culminating in a climax and resolution at some point. Write about your own struggles and really fill out a peak point in your story.

For example, maybe something like a divorce, a medical procedure, or a new career changed the course for your life. Give the reader all the drama surrounding that event. Talk about the relationship conflicts before the divorce and the strain on your life during and after it. Talk about your health issues, feelings, and fears before your medical procedure and the road to recovery afterwards. And talk about how you overcame the obstacles of your career change.

TWFH: What are some common subjects/themes for memoirs?

JS: Coming of age; friendship; overcoming adversity; parenthood; survival; adjusting to new circumstances; hard work; grief; faith…

TWFH: What kind of research goes into writing a memoir?

JS: It doesn’t hurt to research things like plot creation and structure so that you can properly organize your story. Also, I always think it’s useful to read books that are similar to the one you want to write.

TWFH: Do you ever use historical research/facts to pad or enhance your memoirs?

JS: It’s sometimes helpful to do historical research while writing a memoir. Often, the writer’s memory will fail on certain historical details that become important in positioning their story in time. For example, maybe your memoir includes fleeing the war-torn city of your childhood. You probably don’t remember exactly which months out of the year those events occurred, and maybe you weren’t aware of the political events that were important to the scenario. It’s helpful to the reader to look up those details and include them.

TWFH: How do you handle writing about other people in a memoir? Do you need to ask permission? Use fake names? Should you let them read what you’ve written? Is it OK to create composite characters and use them as stand-ins for real people? 

JS: If you say something overly negative about someone, then you open yourself up to defamation allegations. If someone plays a large part in your memoir, then it doesn’t hurt to ask permission. It also doesn’t hurt to have a lawyer review your book, just in case. 

TWFH: How do you organize a memoir? Do memoirs have to be chronological?

JS: Memoirs do not have to be chronological! That being said, autobiographies don’t either. You can certainly shift back and forth in time in either genre, although I think it’s more common in memoirs.

TWFH: Do you have any suggestions for avoiding confusion when shifting back and forth between time periods?

JS: Many memoirs will add a date and place at the beginning of a new section to help orient the reader. I like to do section breaks and then add a label like “July 6, 1967, New York City,” for example.

TWFH: What elements do you think are necessary for a good memoir?

JS: Memoirs need a theme, which we discussed above. It also needs conflict to keep it interesting, and a writing style that reflects you (since the reader will probably picture you telling the story). It also needs storytelling elements such as setting, character development, and a plot.

TWFH: Do you have any other suggestions for people who want to write a memoir?

JS: Figure out what lessons you’ve learned in your life and use your memoir to try to teach your reader those lessons in an interesting way.


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Personalized Gifts for the Millionaire in Your Life

We all have that person in our life who is just impossible to gift for. It’s not that they are overly picky or hard to please. They just have plenty of money to buy the things they want and need, so shopping for them feels nearly impossible.

While buying the latest Louis Vuitton bag or Rolex watch may seem like the obvious solution, we’ve found that what most wealthy people want is something unique and from the heart.

So, with that in mind, we have come up with a list of thoughtful and customized gifts for the millionaire in your life.

The Gift of Their Written Legacy

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Chances are that the millionaire in your life has led a pretty fascinating life. After all, it takes more than just sitting around twiddling your thumbs to acquire that kind of wealth.

It’s likely, though, that they have not shared their life story with many people, and even more likely that they’ve never taken the time to put their legacy on paper. 

By giving the gift of a personalized book of their life story, you can help them preserve their legacy for generations to come.

So, how does it work?

Within 72 hours of your purchase from The Writers For Hire, you will be contacted by a talented team of ghostwriters who will discuss your goals and desires for the book and work with you to set up a time to interview your recipient.

Your writing team will then spend time asking questions, listening to stories, and recording the interviews, which will be transcribed later into a professionally printed, 100% custom, personalized hardcover book. 

This thoughtful gift is a sure way to show how much you care about and appreciate that special person!

The Gift of Experience

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Most millionaires have more than enough material things. The last thing they want is another knickknack collecting dust on their shelves.

By giving that person in your life the gift of an experience, not only will they have a fun adventure, they will make memories that are sure to stay with them forever.

While there are endless possibilities when it comes to experience gifts, here are some of our favorites:

For more fun experience gift ideas, check out Cloud 9 Living.

The Gift of Giving

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Does the millionaire on your list have a cause (or two) that is close to their heart?

In lieu of a traditional gift, consider making a charitable donation in their name. Organizations such as St. Jude Children’s Hospital, Feeding America, the American Diabetes Association, the ASPCA, and the Histiocytosis Association rely on charitable donations to keep their programs running. So, a donation in your recipient’s name will not only be appreciated by them but will also go a long way to helping the charity that they love.

For a list of charitable organizations and their ratings, check out charitynavigator.org.

The Gift of Time

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If there’s one thing we are all in need of, it’s more time. And people whose incomes fall in the seven-figure (or higher) range are generally people who work a lot.

So, why not get them a gift to help free up some time? Here are a few suggestions.

Meal Delivery Service

Meal services like Freshly, Home Bistro, and Veestro are great for busy people.

Unlike other delivery services like Hello Fresh and Blue Apron, which still require some cooking, these services provide ready-made meals that just have to be heated up and served. 

House Cleaning Service

It’s possible that the millionaire in your life already has someone to help keep their home tidy, but if they don’t, this is a great gift!

Nobody wants to spend their precious free time cleaning the floorboards or scrubbing toilets. Hiring an in-house maid service is just the holiday gift your loved one didn’t know they needed!

A Personal Virtual Stylist

For busy professionals, finding the time to go shopping for clothes is a challenge, to say the least. But what if they could try on tailor-selected clothes from the comfort of their own homes?

The gift of a virtual stylist service like Stitch Fix or Trendsend will allow them to do just that!

All your recipient will have to do is answer questions about their clothing sizes and style preferences. Then, their personal stylist will go to work creating beautiful outfit choices, which will be mailed directly to their home. And if they get something that they don’t like (or that doesn’t fit), all they have to do is send it back in the postage-paid envelope.

Final Thoughts

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Ultimately, finding the perfect gift for the millionaire who has everything does not have to be as daunting as it sounds. It just takes a little creativity and some out-of-the-box thinking. And don’t forget to make it come from the heart!

How To Write a Family History Book—7 Steps Plus A Pro Tip

With the rise in popularity of media programming such as PBS’s Finding Your Roots, and the ease and accessibility of home ancestry and DNA test kits, more and more people are choosing to research their family history.

The internet has made this research easier than ever before.

For those who decide to go even further—to compile and record the facts and stories they find—it has also brought along tools for writing and publishing a family history book that can be shared and passed down for generations.

The idea of such a complex and time-intensive project can feel overwhelming. But with a little sticktoitiveness, and the right process, the journey can be a rewarding one.

Seven Steps to Writing Your Family History Book

Step #1: Getting the Family Involved:

One of the biggest challenges you will likely face will come at the very beginning of the process.

Hesitant family members or an older generation afraid of sharing family secrets can be a stumbling block, which often prevents people from going any further.

Carol Cooke Darrow, a Certified Genealogist in Denver Colorado, has personally written three separate family histories.

She also leads a monthly class teaching others how to do the same.

She suggests using photos as an ice-breaker. Direct questions may seem intrusive.

Showing someone a photo opens up the possibility for them to tell the story of who is in the picture, why they are there, what happened that day, and so on.

Step #2. Collecting Living Memories

Personally talk to or interview as many people as possible.

No amount of research can ever produce the rich detail of an actual remembered story.

While it is not always possible to interview someone in person, or even over the phone, letters and email can be extremely useful.

It is important to develop a set of written interview questions before you begin.

This will give your research a road map, and yet allow for the answers to go in an organic direction.

It will also give continuity to your narrative, as that begins to develop.

You can use this same set of questions whether conducting an interview in-person, by telephone, or even email.

Hollace Ava Weiner, of the Fort Worth Jewish Archives, suggests limiting the attendees at an interview.

She learned when writing her own family history that too many people in an interview can be a distraction, and lead to interruptions. “We wrote down questions. We assigned one person to ask the questions.”

You may even find it necessary to bring in a 3rd party to conduct the interviews.

People are sometimes more willing to share when other family members are not around.

Written transcripts, audio files, records, photos, and almost anything else can be attached to your final project.

If you plan to publish a traditional bound book, you will need to convert all of these to visual images that will become a page in the book.

If you envision something more like a scrap-book, you can attach these items directly to the finished product.

Family members who may be unwilling to give you an interview or share personal stories, may share photos, mementos, or other documents.

Assuring them that you will return originals, if they desire, will go a long way toward helping you in your cause.

Excellent quality prints and copies are now easy to get and steps can be taken to preserve the originals.

Step #3. Understanding and Choosing a Writing Format

There are many styles or formats to choose from when writing your family history book.

From the very technical formats used by historians to the more casual and eclectic scrapbook, you will need to decide what form your final project will take.

For historic archivists, the two most commonly used forms are the Register (sometimes called Descendancy) and the Ahnentafel.

The Register style essentially begins in the past and moves forward in time to the present.

The Ahnentafel begins in the present and moves backward, incorporating a specific numbering and charting system for tracking family units.

But unless you plan to submit your family history book to a national archive, you may want to take a more modern approach.

A memoir or family biography may be the right choice for you.

One method is to trace a surname back as far as you can, then write a chronological biographical narrative leading to the present day.

In this case you would place your ancestors within the context of history, writing their stories both remembered and presumed.

You will end up with something like a novel all about your family—the politics, economics, and circumstances that led to movement, migration, and settlement.

Another option is to compile records, stories, memories, interviews, charts, etc. scrapbook style in a bound book.

This approach is no less time consuming, but may be more suited for those wanting to combine multiple branches of the family tree into one book.

These also make lovely anniversary/engagement/graduation gifts.

Which style you choose depends on the narrative you wish to tell and the book you wish to produce.

Step #4. Conducting Family History Research

Some people have been conducting research for many years, and are just now thinking of compiling all of the information into a readable, preservable book.

Others have recently become interested in their family history and want to publish a book in time for a family reunion next year.

Wherever you are in your journey, and whatever your timeline, there are online tools available to help.

The internet makes research much quicker and easier than it ever has been in the past.

Access to microfiche, birth and death certificates, marriage licenses and divorce decrees, wills, census and military records, immigration and naturalization records, ship passenger lists, land records and even newspaper articles are all at your fingertips.

Free and paid sites such as these will be invaluable in your search.

  • GED match
  • International Society of Genetic Genealogy
  • Google
  • Mooseroots
  • Cyndy’s List
  • The National Archives

TWFH genealogist, Jennifer Rizzo, gives us her review of some of the best of these sites. She breaks them down by cost, pros, and cons in this great article.

Step #5. Document Collection

A good rule of thumb: If you cite it, you should include it.

Zoe von Ende Lappin, a member of WISE Family History Society in Denver, Colorado who has written and published a comprehensive family history entitled The Savages of County Louth and America, recommends that you “Identify unproven material, such as family stories, as such. But document those that you can verify.”

Think about the final product and how meaningful it will be if the records you were able to find were included in the bound book.

Many times you can request copies of documents through the site where you found them or download the records directly from the web.

Possible items to include are:

  • The genealogy chart or family tree you create
  • Maps showing movement and migration
  • Census and military records
  • Photographs
  • Letters
  • Marriage licenses
  • Divorce decrees
  • Land deeds
  • Wills
  • Newspaper clippings
  • Written, audio, or video transcripts of family interviews
  • Images of family heirlooms, such as a watch or wedding rings

Step #6. Writing Your Story

Now it is time to start writing.

There are many online tools for writing, charting, and organizing everything that you have collected.

Back Up My Tree, Evernote, and WordPress are all excellent! But a simple word-processing software such as Word or Pages is also sufficient.

The most important thing is that you put it down in writing.

It is also important to think about your audience.

Who is going to read this?

If writing a memoir, write in first person, otherwise a third-person narrative is the best approach.

Story-telling is the way history has always been passed down.

As you are collecting stories, you may discover a recurring theme.

You might notice that a large number of your ancestors followed a similar profession.

You may see that most of them were members of the same societies or fraternal organizations.

Following a theme is a good way to give your research direction, and begin to formulate a narrative.

Consider your audience as you begin to define the project.

No one wants to read every detail of every descendant you have ever had leading back to The Garden.

Choosing a specific theme that interests you, or one specific couple whose lineage you want to follow, will give you the framework for a story people want to read, and that you want to write.

One commonly used theme is to write about the members of a family who lived in one specific geographic location. The Smiths of Texas County, is an example.

Or you may choose something more unusual such as a family history of recipes.

Much can be learned about a family through the food they eat.

You could write stories about the women, where they lived, how they found local ingredients, the economic challenges they faced, and the children they bore.

Carol Cooke Darrow suggests that “starting small, choosing something you want to preserve, and giving yourself a deadline” are all keys finishing the project.

Step #7. Publishing Your Story

You got the family involved, you collected the living memories, you chose a format, you conducted extensive research, collected all the documents, and wrote your story.

Now it is time to publish your hard work.

For many projects, Amazon’s CreateSpace is a high quality, low cost option.

With online tools accessible 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, and no up-front fees, they are an easy safe zone in the self-publishing market.

There are limitations with what you can do creatively. But, if you are looking for straight-forward templates and quick publishing turn-around, CreateSpace has everything you need.

For a more robust project, or one where you have more creative control, you may need to look to a smaller publishing house.

Stellar Communications, for example, has a team of professional editors, writers, graphic artists, photographers, illustrators, and more who can help you with your custom job.

Other self-publishing sites such as Lulu, Otter Bay, Geology House, Stories to Tell Books, and Legacy Books are all online and offer different features.

Pro Tip- Including Photos and Visuals

A picture is worth a thousand words, and at no time is that more true than in a family history.

If you have been able to collect photos and other visual history, you will no doubt want to include those in your final book.

Make yourself aware of any copyright laws regarding your materials, and always remember to give credit where credit is due by documenting where you found the image.

After scanning the originals, Dropbox, cloud storage, and even thumb drives can be helpful as images can take up significant amounts of space on your hard drive.

For storing original photos and other delicate items, our expert Jennifer Rizzo recommends a good-old fashioned cedar chest.

Just make sure to place them in a polyester sleeve or acid free paper box first, and store the chest away from direct heat or moisture.

Writing down your family history is a gift to yourself, your relatives, and to generations yet to come.

Whether for an anniversary gift, a submission to a national historic archive, or simply a compilation of many years’ worth of personal research, it is a project worth perusing.

Recognizing the scope of the project, setting an achievable deadline, and following these steps will help you achieve the goal of a beautiful, polished, and sharable finished product.