The Obedient Child: A Case Study in Writing an Autobiography

“I constantly think that I am so glad that I finished writing my biography with your great help. I think it is one of the most important accomplishments and most enjoyable experiences of my life.”

Joyce Marleau, author of The Obedient Child

Most observers believe that writing one’s autobiography is nothing more than a stroll down memory lane. However, there is a lot more to it than meets the eye.

While a finished copy of an autobiography may seem like just a collection of anecdotes, in reality, much more time and effort go into producing an accurate depiction of one’s life.

Producing a high-quality autobiography can be a complicated endeavor for those with little or no writing experience. In fact, many autobiographers find that the process is a lot harder than they bargained for.

However, with some help from a ghostwriter or team of ghostwriters, producing a long-awaited life’s chronicle can be achieved.

This was the case for Joyce Marleau, author of  The Obedient Child.

After working closely with a team of ghostwriters, Joyce was not only able to complete her autobiography, but is now receiving praises for her story and is even being recognized in public by strangers.

In this article, we will explore the role that a ghostwriter plays in helping extraordinary individuals, like Joyce, get their unique life stories out to the rest of the world.

Moreover, we will discuss how Joyce's book, The Obedient Child, is a textbook case study on how a ghostwriter (or team of writers) can assist talented individuals in achieving one of life’s crowning accomplishments: writing an autobiography.

What Is an Autobiography?

Simply put, an autobiography is the story of a person’s life told in the subject’s own voice. A subject’s own voice entails having their personal experience jump out at the reader. This characteristic is what defines an autobiography.

Traditional biographies—that is, a person’s life story told by a third party—while accurate, do not reflect the subject’s personal thoughts and feelings. What readers get is the author’s views, biases, opinions, and conclusions. In a manner of speaking, there is an invisible barrier between the reader and the subject.

That barrier fades away with an autobiography.

An autobiography’s main purpose is to take the subject’s voice to articulate their thoughts and feelings regarding their own life’s events. This approach allows readers to have a conversation with the subject. Readers get to imbibe the subject’s perception without the filter that comes from a third-party biographer.

On the whole, most autobiographies are the result of an individual’s writing acumen. Nevertheless, there are instances in which a third-party writer crafts the prose that reflects the subject’s true voice. This task is what ghostwriters do when they set out to produce an autobiography.

The Ghostwriter’s Role in Writing an Autobiography

Some people believe that an autobiography written by a ghostwriter is not an autobiography. But nothing could be further from the truth!

A ghostwriter’s role in an autobiography is not to produce content.

Instead, the ghostwriter’s role is to articulate the subject’s voice and vision into prose that communicates with readers. As a result, a ghostwriter is merely an enabler that facilitates the culmination of an autobiographical project.

The question then begs, “What does a ghostwriter do in an autobiographical project?”

The answer to that question reveals the integral role that ghostwriters play in producing an autobiography.

Please remember that ghostwriters do not write an autobiography. Therefore, a ghostwriter’s role is to bring the autobiographer’s vision to life.

As the American poet Maya Angelou once said, “There is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside you.” Indeed, ghostwriters help many untold stories come to fruition. They make it possible for the world to hear those stories.

Without ghostwriters, many stories would slip away into oblivion.

Ghostwriters at Work

Ghostwriters have been around a long time. They have helped some of the most famous and influential individuals get their message out there. Such is the case of President Ulysses S. Grant.

Following his retirement, Grant set out to write his memoirs. Indeed, he penned a great deal of the material himself. However, he had the helping hand of a dear friend: Mark Twain.

Twain convinced Grant to accept a deal from Twain’s publishing company, passing on other deals Grant had on the table. While more generous than the others, Twain’s offer came with an extraordinary benefit: Twain’s support. Twain officially provided Grant with consulting services. Mainly, he helped Grant edit his writing. However, the unique prose in Grant’s memoirs has been the subject of speculation for decades, which lies in the view that Twain actually ghostwrote Grant’s memoirs.

In the example above, Twain exemplified Maya Angelou’s words. He helped take a story and bring it to life. While there is evidence that Grant supplied the information in his memoirs, it was Twain who aided his dear friend in articulating the message he wanted to tell the world. Unfortunately, no one will ever truly know to what extent Twain helped Grant compose the words on the printed page.

Like President Grant, Joyce Marleau has lived an incredible life and has an equally impressive story to tell. So, she set out to share it with the world. She endeavored to produce her autobiography. However, she ran into some bumps along the way. So, she decided to contact the writing team at The Writers For Hire for help.

As with many first-time writers, Joyce had a head full of ideas. She had a treasure trove of photographs, stories, and experiences to share. She had a wonderful life journey waiting to come to life.

But instead of letting her life’s project languish, Joyce made a wise choice. She brought in a ghostwriter to help her bring her life’s project to fruition.

The result of this endeavor is The Obedient Child.

The Obedient Child is the story of a remarkable woman who left her home country at the age of 19. She set out from Taiwan to the United States without truly knowing what to expect.

She had lived through the Japanese occupation of her country through WWII, and the subsequent Chinese government rule. Undoubtedly, change has been her life’s overarching theme. Dreams have also been a major theme in her life. And one of those dreams was to study in the United States.

Through incredible bravery and encouragement from her parents, this amazing young woman made her dream come true.

She attended university in Kansas after leaving everything she had ever known in her life. Embracing uncertainty, this remarkable young woman— named Chwen Erl at birth—now became Joyce.

Joyce embarked on this new stage in her life, determined to be an American success story. With her husband, Joe, Joyce built her life on the foundation of her past to transform herself into everything she had always wanted to be.

Joyce and her husband settled in Seattle, Washington, where they started investing in real estate. Years later, after vacationing in Mexico, they decided to use their real estate experience to buy and renovate a home in the beautiful coastal town of Puerto Vallarta, Mexico.

Joyce and Joe now live half of the year in Seattle and the other half in Puerto Vallarta, where Joyce has fully embraced the magnificent Mexican culture.

The Encounter

In March 2019, Joyce reached out to The Writers for Hire. She had finally set out to make her dream come true: write her autobiography.

The spark for this great endeavor stemmed from a chance meeting with author Alan Drury who, upon hearing about Joyce’s life experiences, encouraged her to write a book. From that meeting, Joyce has been determined to get her story out to the world. She had a message to communicate with the entire universe. Nevertheless, she merely needed a helping hand.

Joyce began fulfilling her dream with the help of a team of professional ghostwriters from The Writers For Hire.

Joyce’s ghostwriters, Jennifer Rizzo and Dana Robinson, helped her map out the path for her book.

This path led to an intensive four-day interview session in which Joyce laid out her remarkable life.

Throughout the interviews, which took place in Joyce’s home in Puerto Vallarta, Jennifer and Dana asked Joyce a series of questions about her life, and took notes as Joyce told her story (with a little input from her husband, Joe).

Those notes, along with the recordings of the interviews, would provide the basis for what would become The Obedient Child.

Armed with their precious cargo, Jennifer and Dana set out to compile Joyce’s wealth of information. From there, they crafted an outline of the book and began producing a narrative that captured Joyce’s true voice. This endeavor was not about writing Joyce’s autobiography for her. It was about helping Joyce mold her own words into a chronicle that aptly communicated her message.

Throughout the writing process, each completed chapter was sent to Joyce by email. Joyce then made any changes or additions that she saw fit, to ensure that the book was accurate and that it conveyed the exact message she wished to share.

Getting the Message Out to the World

Once completed, it was time to get The Obedient Child out to the world. Joyce’s ghostwriting team put her in touch with Houston-based publisher Stellar Communications. Stellar has a singular track record of publishing wonderful books, and The Obedient Child was not the exception.

Joyce’s ghostwriting team worked closely with the team at Stellar Communications to get Joyce’s book formatted exactly as she wished, with beautiful images added throughout.

Jennifer and Dana then did a final proof of the printed copy, to make sure that it was as perfect as possible, and ready to be published.

Upon publication, Joyce’s story has deliberately etched a place for itself in the literary world. It is currently available on Amazon.

However, the aim of the book is not to merely reach publication. This endeavor has not been about becoming a “published” author. For Joyce, this endeavor has been about reaching as many people as possible and touching as many lives as she could with her life’s essence.

And that, she has done.

Getting Through to Others

There is no greater satisfaction for any author, artist, or performer than to have others acknowledge their work and contributions. Receiving positive feedback from the public makes the hard work and sacrifice that comes with writing a book worthwhile.

For Joyce, that feeling of satisfaction would come soon enough.

As soon as her friends and family started reading The Obedient Child,  praises for Joyce’s book and her life story started pouring in.

Joyce’s younger sister even remarked that, through the book, she learned things about Joyce and her childhood that she had never known before.

But family and friends were not the only people impressed by Joyce’s fascinating book.

One morning in Puerto Vallarta, Joyce and Joe were running errands. Their errands took them to a local bank office where Joyce was pleasantly surprised by an unexpected encounter.

While at the bank, another customer approached Joyce to compliment her on the book. The lady had recognized Joyce from the photos in the book, and just had to meet her in person!

What a momentous occasion. Joyce now had fans!

Indeed, it is an author’s dream come true to have strangers stop to tell them about how much their book connected with them.

This encounter was the height of this incredible journey that started so many years ago.

The Lessons Learned

Joyce’s story highlights three key lessons regarding the role that ghostwriters play in developing an autobiography.

1. It is all about the author.

The author, Joyce, is the story’s focus at all times. She is the star of the show. As a result, the entire project revolves around what Joyce brings to the table in her book.

So, what did the ghostwriters do?

The ghostwriters were merely a conduit that allowed Joyce’s voice to shine through the pages.

When readers flip through a page in Joyce’s book, they get the real Joyce. The reader does not get a filtered view from a third-party perspective. Readers get the real deal.

It is worth noting that a ghostwriter is a consultant. Like Mark Twain, a ghostwriter assists the author in getting their message across. Ultimately, the ghostwriter does as much or as little as the author needs.

2. It is all about the message.

A great autobiography circles around a core message. Therefore, a ghostwriter assists the author in articulating that message so that it reaches their intended audience.

The aim is to ensure the prose resonates with the reader. Otherwise, the autobiography may prove to be a sterile exercise.

Joyce had a message she wanted to communicate to the world.

Working in tandem with her ghostwriting team enabled her to craft her message so that it resonated with her readers.

Ultimately, Joyce achieved her aim. Her readers now recognize her when she goes to the bank. How many people can claim that?

3. It is all about partnership.

Working with a ghostwriter is about building a partnership. This partnership creates a two-way collaboration. Please remember that a ghostwriter is a consultant. A professional ghostwriter is about helping the author find their voice as they navigate the waters of the literary ocean.

Writing can also become a lonely experience.

Writing an autobiography can be quite challenging. It is even more challenging when a first-time author attempts to go it alone. Therefore, having a trusted partner helps make the journey much easier to manage.

Joyce had a helping hand to guide her throughout every stage of writing her autobiography. Undoubtedly, producing her autobiography would have been much harder without the guidance of her trusted ghostwriting partners.

One Final Thought

Like Joyce, there are plenty of first-time writers out there. These aspiring authors have a message they yearn to communicate to the world. However, they may not know how to find their true voice.

Reaching out to a professional ghostwriter can mean the difference between having an untold story within and sharing their unique experience with the universe.

Ultimately, finding a trusted partner can make a dream come true. Joyce found her trusted ghostwriting partners at The Writers For Hire. It was indeed the right choice.

Picking the Best Format to Write Your Life Story

You’ve had an interesting life, and you want to share your story with the world. You want to share lessons learned, leave a legacy for your family, or preserve favorite memories. You’ve thought about writing a book more than once, but you’re not sure where to start.

In fact, you’re not even sure what kind of book you should write.

Should you tell your story in chronological order, starting with the day you were born? Should you aim for a series of “snapshots” of important events in your life? Do you want to focus on one aspect of your life, like your career? Do you want to write about a challenge you’ve had to overcome?

We know. That’s a lot to think about.

First of all, don’t worry if you feel overwhelmed.  A book is a big project, and there are several great options for writing your life story. In this guide, we’ll take a look at some of the most popular options, and help you decide which is best for you.

Autobiography or Memoir?

Although you’ve probably heard these two terms used interchangeably, there’s actually a difference between an autobiography and a memoir. Both are great options for telling your story, but the option you choose will depend on things like your goals for the book, the focus of your book, and the types of stories you want to share.

The Autobiography

An autobiography is a sweeping factual narrative of your life.

It’s written in chronological order from your birth to the present moment.

It is based on factual events rather than memories and emotions, and highlights the experiences and accomplishments throughout your lifetime.

All autobiographies are written in first-person, typically by the author themselves, but can also be written by a ghostwriter.

While this format is normally used by famous people who have a lot of accomplishments and experiences to document, anyone can write an autobiography.

Within the autobiography format, there are two main approaches.

  1. You can write your life story strictly based on your history and accomplishments, listing the events of your life in consecutive order so your readers can learn about you and your life experiences.
  2. You can write your life story based on a particular theme. How would you define your life in one key message? Maybe it’s the idea that love conquers all, or a theme like overcoming adversity and never giving up. By determining one main theme and weaving it through the all facts of your life, it makes for a more interesting story and creates a better flow.

In fact, many of the best autobiographies out there have a central idea that blends with the author’s entire life story throughout the book.

Pros: This is a little easier to write, due to the chronological and factual nature of the format. Unlike some of the other options available, an autobiography can be straightforward and simple; there is no need to use literary devices or embellishments.

Cons: Presenting your life story in a strictly factual, linear way can be less interesting than a memoir. The “just the facts” approach also means you’ll need to do lot of fact checking and research. Also, it can be difficult writing about yourself, especially in the first person, without it feeling stilted. You might find that you sound too humble or even too arrogant — it’s hard to strike the right balance.

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The Memoir

Unlike an autobiography, a memoir focuses on a more specific point in time based on your memories and the feelings of that time period.

It is meant to re-create the past instead of merely record it, which makes for a more interesting read.

This format is also written in the first person but is less formal. Instead of emphasizing factual events, a memoir is focused on how you remember or were affected by these events.

One of the great things about this type of format is that it gives you, the author, great flexibility. You can write about anything. This is also a great option if you find that you really enjoy writing:  because a memoir covers only one aspect, event, or time period in your life, you can write numerous memoirs about other experiences.

You can write a memoir about your childhood, your travels, your family, your career, or anything else. Think about a key theme or lesson and how it affected or shaped you then and now. You can write about a single personal event that happened; a single historical event; a series of connected events that have a common thread; or an external person or event to you and how it/they affected or shaped you, your life, and your outlook on life.

Pros: You can write  about virtually any topic, theme, experience, or event. Plus, because you’re writing about your own memories and events in your life and not about your accomplishments, it’s easier to write without sounding stilted or over-indulgent. And if you love to write, you can write numerous memoirs.

Cons: Writing a memoir takes a little more writing skill to make the story flow in an interesting way. Also, your memories could be less clear than the real events which could possibly open you up to liability issues. Other things to consider are privacy of others and the potential of alienating yourself from friends or family depending on your subject matter.

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Many Ways to Write Your Life Story

Now that you know the difference between an autobiography and a memoir, it’s also important to know that these aren’t the only two ways to write your life story. Consider these optional formats:

The Diary or Journal

Many people regularly journal or keep a diary to chronicle their life’s experiences. If you have kept a journal over the years, then you are even closer to writing your life’s story.

It doesn't matter if you have never journaled before.

You can start right now to keep track of your daily life and use that as a springboard to writing your story.

Using a theme or single topic as you journal can be a good way to get started.

Plus, if you do it in this format, you can take a mix of both the autobiographical format and the memoir format by doing it chronologically but with more emotion and not as much fact.

You can also simply intermix the memoir and diary formats together and write your memoir as if you were doing journal entries.

Pros: You may have already been keeping a diary or journal throughout your lifetime, so it makes a great format to start with as much of the writing is already done. You can also still build around a central theme or simply write your memories out in this format.

Cons: Many diaries or journals contain mundane thoughts, feelings, and daily events that aren’t interesting to write about or read. It can be harder to go through each entry and extract the interesting parts from what is probably not all that interesting. Oftentimes, keeping a diary or journal will lead to a lot of rambling and usually there isn’t a cohesive theme or event to it.

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The Biography

A biography is the telling of person’s life story—typically a famous person—by another author.

It is usually written in the third-person voice (he/she) and is also factual in content and written in chronological order from birth to the present moment, just like an autobiography.

But just because biographies are normally written by someone else, there is no rule book that says you can’t write your own biography!

All you need to do is take your story and write as if it happened to someone else. 

You can also write your memoir this way using a he/she form of writing.

Pros: Writing in the third person vs. first person can help you detach from your story so you can see it more objectively. Also, much like an autobiography, this format is based on facts and an easy to follow timeline, so you can write in a more direct way without a lot of added fluff like you would in a memoir or autobiographical novel.

Cons: Writing in the third person form can be difficult when writing about yourself and your achievements. You also must still focus on the historical events of your life and the facts which means a lot of research and fact checking is necessary.

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The Autobiographical Novel

Another way to present your life story is writing a fictionalized book based on the true or remembered events of your life.

Why write your life story as if it were made up and put it into novel form?

Certainly, there are risks when you write your life story and present a factual (autobiography) or semi-factual (memoir) account.

Liability, privacy, protecting other people who are still living, and a sensitive subject matter are all good reasons to choose this format.

Of course, writing in a fiction format can also be a good way to embellish on facts that aren’t quite so interesting. Just remember to never make up facts and portray them as truth within your life story. You can use truth within your fiction, but not the other way around.

Pros: By choosing this format, you can avoid hurting family, friends, and other people that are a part of your story. You can also protect yourself from liability issues by presenting sensitive topics and information as fiction. Plus, if you don’t fully remember all the events you’re writing about, it might be better to present them as fiction. And writing in novel form allows you to embellish on the facts that aren’t quite so interesting.

Cons: Presenting the truth as made up doesn’t give the healing or closure on certain events or topics in your life which is something many people try to do when telling their life story. Also, you want people to know it is your story and writing in fiction can cause confusion to your audience.

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Alternative Formats

Want to do something completely unique?

The great thing about writing your own story is that, well, it’s yours. And that means you can tell it any way you choose.

The only limit is your creativity.

Here are some ideas of other formats you can try:

  1. Like almost everyone, you probably have a phone in your hands at any given moment. Start taking video of important experiences and events to create a video autobiography.
  2. Create an audio or oral autobiography by voice recording yourself talking about your life, history, events, or anything you want to talk about to your intended audience.
  3. Take a series of photos of you with captions and create a digital photo autobiography that chronicles your life by placing it online, CD, or another digital format.
  4. Using photos, letters, certificates of achievement, journaling, and paper, make a one-of-a-kind keepsake scrapbook that tells your life story. It will be visual, unique, and something you and your family can treasure.
  5. Do you like to take your own photos? Create a digital memoir using photos you have taken across a life event, experience, or topic.
  6. Maybe you’re an artist and have created paintings and drawings over the years. Consider putting them all together into book form that helps tell a story of your life, similar to a memoir or across your life like an autobiography.
  7. If you are an avid social media user, you could consider taking your social media conversations, social media posts, even your text conversations and compile your life story around these things, even using a similar format. Group them together by topic or theme to make for easier reading. If using text messages or comments made by others, be sure to get permission from them before you publish in any sort of way so as not to plagiarize.
  8. Write a series of short stories and put them together into a book, like an anthology. They can be stories about similar topics or events or can be completely separate and random.
  9. Create a book of poetry with each poem detailing aspects of your life or memories.

Pros: You can present your life story in anyway you choose! You can be as creative as you want while possibly even starting a new niche in this genre – you could be a trendsetter!

Cons: You have fewer examples to follow to help you along with telling your story, especially if you are a new writer. You’ll have to be extra creative and make up your format as you go which might extend the time it takes to get your project completed.

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Writing an Autobiography? Hire a Ghostwriter!

When you tell people about your life, do you often hear, “you should write a book!”?

Have you lived a life that inspires others, or do you have a fascinating family history that you are confident would be a bestseller?

If you are reading this, chances are you have a spark burning inside you to get your story out into the world. There may be obstacles standing in your way. Maybe it is time, money, skills, or even the frustration of how to tackle such a massive project.

You may be under the impression the public only wants to read about well-known people. The truth is you do not have to be famous to write your life story.

Helen Garrison-Williams, publishing director at 4th Estate (owned by HarperCollins), says, “Celebrities aren’t inspiring anymore, and people don’t want to be them.” 

Instead, Garrison-Williams says regular people’s autobiographies are becoming more popular. “What readers want is people who are normal and who they feel they can trust.”

Unfortunately, though, many people who want to tell their life stories never follow through. They fear that it will be too much work or that they don’t have the necessary skills.

They don’t realize that hiring a ghostwriter to co-author your life story keeps you and your voice at the epicenter of the project.

The purpose of a ghostwriter is to uncover your voice and author your story for and with you.

Ghostwriters not only have a robust understanding of narrative but also an exceptional ear for individual voices.

Their job is to recreate your story in an effective and authentic voice—your voice, a voice you may not even realize you have—and to tell that story using the skills and elements of narrative writing.

Jennifer Rizzo, a ghostwriter at The Writers For Hire, explains how autobiography ghostwriters successfully write using their client’s voice. “Ghostwriters are skilled at really listening to the way our clients speak, in order to genuinely mimic (their) style and rhythm of speech.”

Autobiography ghostwriters seamlessly bring clients’ voices to life. Rizzo says, “We use those unique inflections and ways of saying things to weave their characteristics into the story.” 

All you have to do is hand over the reins to your ghostwriter and remain available for interviews, answering questions, and periodically approving the writing throughout the project.

Reasons to Consider Hiring a Ghostwriter for Your Autobiography

Many people joke about drafting the stories of their lives. And the truth is that many really would love to produce a book to share with their families—including future generations—or to publish on a larger scale.

However, very few actually do so.

Below are some great reasons to consider hiring a ghostwriter for your autobiography.

1. You have a remarkable story but not the writing skills to publish your book.

You know that you have a story people will want to read but you also realize your dream of others reading your book will not come true without the support and expertise of a ghostwriter and editor.

2. You have written out bits and pieces but need someone to put it all together coherently.

You may have written down ideas and thoroughly enjoyed the process. You may even want to continue writing sections of your autobiography, but you know you need an experienced co-author to organize those sections into a coherent narrative.

3. You have the skills to write your autobiography, just not enough time.

Crafting your autobiography solo involves a huge time commitment and you may not have the time to make it happen. An autobiography ghostwriter is a partner who can help you efficiently move the process along.

4. You have great ideas in your head, but you need someone to help get them onto paper.

You have a clear mind movie of your autobiography, and you may have even begun drafting your story, but you know you need structural help with pacing and other elements of your story.

What is the Difference Between an Autobiography Writing Coach and a Ghostwriter?

Now that you have established the need for some outside help, you may wonder what distinguishes an autobiography writing coach from a ghostwriter.

There are several differences, ranging from the amount of writing and research each of you will do to the total cost of your project, as well as how much time you will need to invest.

Autobiography Writing Coach

An autobiography writing coach works closely with clients to establish the book’s theme, content, research, and outline. The writing coach’s primary purpose is to help clients draft their own books.

An autobiography writing coach does not complete any of the actual writing—instead, they help clients set goals and give them strategies to succeed as an author.

A coach’s services are based on the client’s needs and wants, such as research or editing. Typically, coaches are given partial credit for authoring the book.

Autobiography Ghostwriter

Like a coach, an autobiography ghostwriter also works with clients to establish themes, plan content, and create an outline—however, a ghostwriter provides additional services.

Ghostwriters serve as co-authors and interviewers as they discover and develop the clients’ stories.

Ghostwriters can complete and verify all relevant research and track down any necessary supporting documentation.

The most significant difference between a writing coach and a ghostwriter is that ghostwriters compile all the content and draft the book, generally receiving no credit. No one reading a book written by a ghostwriter will know someone else is the author; instead, the client gets full credit.

In most cases, hiring a ghostwriter will cost more than hiring a writing coach, because of the larger scale of services offered. However, if money is a deciding factor, there are ways to reduce your costs by playing a more active role in the process.

For example, supplying your own documentation and providing images may significantly reduce the costs of working with an autobiography ghostwriter.

How Hiring a Ghostwriter Can Help You Get Published

The grand finale of your autobiographical journey is getting it published. Although self-publishing is not new, the recent popularity of self-published books like “The Martian” by Andy Weir and “50 Shades of Grey” by E.L. James has given this format of publication a widespread stamp of approval.

It also offers new authors a variety of options to get their story out into the world.

Although self-publication can give authors additional options for success, it can be difficult for new authors to determine which path to take.

This is where working with a seasoned writing partner can pay off.

Not only will ghostwriters sharpen your content and weave your story into a literary work you can be proud of, but they can also help guide you through an overcrowded marketplace that is often hard to navigate.

Ghostwriters are not agents, but they can be insightful allies on your journey to publication.

“While we are not publishers ourselves, we work very closely with several independent publishing agencies,” says Rizzo when asked about ways The Writer’s For Hire can help clients get published. “We are very well versed at getting autobiographies written and formatted in a way so that they are in good shape to hand directly over to the publishers when completed.”

Working With a Ghostwriter

Hiring a ghostwriter offers a multitude of benefits. You will have someone who listens carefully to every detail of your past while learning your goals, dreams, hopes, and fears. The ghostwriter will come to understand your story in a way no one has before.

Working with a ghostwriter is a partnership with someone whose entire goal is to understand your story, from your point of view, wholly and wholeheartedly. Someone who will provide feedback to your ideas and construct your story in a way that will satisfy you and resonate with readers

“The process can take many forms, depending on the client’s needs,” Rizzo says. “Some clients know exactly what they want their autobiographies to say, but struggle to put those words to paper . . . In other cases, a client may want to take a stab at the writing themselves, and just need a ghostwriter to help smooth things out and do edits.”

Authoring a book takes time. It does not happen in a month or two. Rizzo stresses, “Writing an autobiography is a marathon, not a sprint.”

Good writing is honest writing, and ghostwriters must take time to get to know you in order to convey your story and your truth, in your own voice.

Considering Writing Your Autobiography?

Writing your life story is one of the most fulfilling projects you can ever embark upon, regardless of whether it is for yourself, your family, or a broader audience.

Hiring an autobiography ghostwriter means building a relationship based on trust and honesty.

Finding a skilled ghostwriter with whom you feel comfortable will allow you to relax and enjoy the creation of your memoir while maintaining creative control.

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.