“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.
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.
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.
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.