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.

Suggested Reading:

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.

Suggested Reading:

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.

Suggested Reading:

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.

Suggested Reading:

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.

Suggested Reading:

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.

Suggested Reading:

Christmas Eve Books and Other Traditions Around the World

With Christmas only a few days away, shoppers around the world are scrambling to find those last-minute gifts for their loved ones. But between hurried trips to the store and online shopping in hopes that packages will arrive in time, families are also preparing for their annual Christmas traditions.

While some traditions such as decorating with Christmas lights, visiting Santa, and baking Christmas cookies may be fairly universal, there are other traditions that can only be found in certain parts of the world.

In this great article from The Travel, they dive into 10 of the Strangest Christmas Traditions Around the World. From a Christmas spider in Ukraine and a scary Santa called Krampus in Austria, to Italy’s Christmas witch, Bufana, some of these traditions seem better fit for Halloween.

Other traditions, though, such as fried caterpillars in South Africa and KFC in Japan, may have us questioning our traditional Christmas ham or turkey.

Image by mikegi from Pixabay 

But of all of the traditions around the world, my personal favorite is Iceland’s tradition of Jólabókaflóðið, or “Christmas Book Flood.” Jólabókaflóðið is the Icelandic people’s beautiful tradition of giving books to each other on Christmas Eve and then spending the night reading.

This tradition is so widespread in Iceland that the majority of the country’s book sales happen between September and December each year, in preparation for Christmas giving.

In fact, households in Iceland even receive a free annual book catalog called Bokatidindi, which is dedicated solely to new book publications. And just as children in the U.S. pour over the pages of the annual Target toy catalog, circling what they hope to get for Christmas, kids in Iceland spend hours going through the Bokatidindi and dreaming about the books they will receive.

In the Icelandic tradition, gifts are opened on December 24th, and everyone reads the books they were given that night, while enjoying hot chocolate or the traditional alcohol-free Christmas ale called jólabland.

Now, I don’t know about you, but I think it’s about time to start incorporating Jólabókaflóðið into my family’s Christmas traditions!

Style and Tone in Writing: What They Mean and Why it Matters

As a writer, you hear the terms style and tone bandied about quite a bit, and frequently together.

But are they something you need to pay attention to? Or do they just happen when you write?

You know that all writing has some form of tone and style, but what do the terms really mean? Aren’t they essentially the same thing?

While both are ways to express yourself in your writing, style and tone are distinctly different from each other. And they each serve an essential purpose in your writing.

Here’s what you need to know about tone and style and why every writer needs to use them conscientiously. 

Style

Regardless of whether you are writing fiction or nonfiction, your writing style is the way in which you tell your story. It’s the nuts and bolts of language.

Do you like long, flowing sentences? Maybe you prefer short sentences with simple, easy-to-understand words. The writing tools you choose—such as the words, sentence structure, and grammar—create your style. 

Think about some of the authors or different genres you’ve read. Typically, each genre will have some style similarities, but each author will put his or her own touch on it. 

For instance, both Ernest Hemingway and Charles Dickens are authors of literary fiction, but compare these two lines:

“‘Hello,’ I said. When I saw her I was in love with her. Everything turned over inside of me.” – from A Farewell to Arms by Hemingway.

“The freshness of her beauty was indeed gone, but its indescribable majesty and its indescribable charm remained. Those attractions in it I had seen before; what I had never seen before was the saddened softened lift of the once proud eyes; what I had never felt before was the friendly touch of the once insensible hand.” – from Great Expectations by Dickens. 

Each passage is a description of the narrator seeing a woman with whom he is smitten.

Hemingway’s is three sentences while Dickens’ is only two, but as a whole, Dickens’ is much longer. He even uses two semicolons in the second sentence.

Hemingway uses action words while Dickens dives into descriptive phrases. The way in which each of these writers uses language to tell their story is their style. So, why does that matter?

On a basic level, you want to be certain that your writing style fits the genre you’re writing. There’s always room for flexibility, but a press release should not read like a romance novel or a history of the Civil War.

Readers have expectations, and veering too far off the established path can cause them to lose interest. Or, even worse, it could jeopardize your project.

Find the appropriate style for the genre you are writing, and make it your own.

Tone

In some ways, tone is less technical than style. It is the attitude the writer takes towards the subject or even the reader.

It can be formal or academic. It can also be friendly or even humorous. What is appropriate may vary with the type of writing being done. 

Here are two passages from essays on motherhood. They are both talking about essentially the same topic, but they come across very differently:

“In the weeks after my first son was born, I squandered hours of precious sleep leaning over his bassinet to check that he was still breathing. I researched potential dangers that seemed to grow into monstrous reality by the blue light of my smartphone.” from “How Motherhood Changes the Brain” by Chelsea Conaboy published by theweek.com.

“A couple of years ago my daughter began climbing into our bed in the morning. I liked it. I love a morning snuggle, the promise of the day whispered in scratchy voices and the weight of my kids’ bodies warm against my side.” from “Motherhood” by Amy Flory published on funnyisfamily.com.

While both authors are writing about motherhood, the tone in Conaboy’s passage is decidedly more ominous. It’s filled with worry. Flory’s piece, on the other hand, oozes affection and comfortable joy.

Their styles are not significantly different, but their tones set very different moods for the reader. 

So, why does your tone matter? Because it affects how your readers receive your message. The wrong tone can make any story or message fall flat— or worse!

Your tone sets the mood for your book.

Would you enjoy a romance novel written with an authoritative and distant tone? Or, how about a true-crime book written in a fun or even silly tone?

It is possible to be “tone deaf” in your writing. Just as in public speaking, you want to speak to your specific audience when you write.

Using Style and Tone in Your Writing

You’ve heard it before: It’s not just what you say but also how you say it. When you combine style and tone, what you have is your distinctive writing voice.

Here are a couple of tips for using style and tone in your writing:

  • Be intentional – Do some research, and figure out what styles and tones can work effectively for your genre. How do you want your work to come across to the reader? Choose your style and tone before you even begin. Remember, you want to find the appropriate style and tone and then make them your own.
  • Be consistent – Make sure your writing stays true to those choices or make a full change if needed, but don’t flip flop. This involves reading your work closely after you have finished, to ensure your style and tone stays consistent throughout. Inconsistencies in style and tone can leave the reader confused or annoyed.

Know What’s Hot 

The rules for style and tone can change with time.

There was a time when books about history were always written in a very formal, journalistic style, for example. Then, a couple of decades ago, the idea of creative non-fiction took hold. Even history books started to read more like novels.

It’s important to know what’s “hot” right now because that establishes the reader’s expectations.

That being said, you don’t want to be unduly influenced by it, either, and try to write in a style or tone that is not comfortable for you.

Put your finger on the current pulse, and then align your skills and your project with that.

The Numbers Behind the Words: Can You Make Money Writing Non-Fiction Books?

We all know an awful lot about something. It’s just the way people are.

Your area of expertise might be something useful, like knowing how to fix cars, or it might be something less tangible, say, an obscene amount of knowledge about cartoons from the late 1970s to the early 1980s (ruh roh, Raggy!).

Whatever the case may be, chances are that people come to you from time to time to ask your opinion about something related to your area of expertise.

Even folks who wouldn’t necessarily call themselves an authority in anything have this happen.

For some, once they hit a certain level of knowledge on a topic, the logical next step is to sit down and start writing about it.

Writing a non-fiction book can be a great way to expand on your knowledge of something and, best of all, show off how much you know about something (in a good way, not a braggy way).

Even in the digital age, when everyone is jumping on the internet to write blogs about what they know, we’re still seeing a lot of books hitting the market. In 2019 alone, more than 650 million books were sold!

But, even with all those books entering the market every year, how possible is it to actually make a living as a non-fiction writer?

Is it still possible to dedicate your life to writing about topics that you care about? Or do you have to live out your dream by supplementing your writing with a job at the mall?

Let's Take a Closer Look at the Money

The traditional book route

1. Getting a book deal.

For most of us, when we dream about writing a book, we dream about just that: a book.

Dust covers, author photos, hardcovers (and soft) and, paper pages.

Glorious, glorious pages.

It’s only natural that this is the first thing that comes to mind because, despite ebooks gaining in popularity in the last 10 or so years, people still love to get their hands on a physical book.

There’s just something about them that drives us to them.

Writers are no different. If you’ve had a dream of writing for any amount of time at all, you’ve probably spent most of that time dreaming about holding a real book with your name all over the cover.

So you decide to go for it.

The first thing that’s going to happen when you manage to snag yourself a book deal is getting an advance (I’ve cut quite a few steps out here, like finding an agent and prepping your submission, but we’re talkin’ money here).

An advance is a kind of loan that publishers use to pay you up front.

In the non-fiction world, you’re typically looking at anywhere from $5,000 to $20,000 for your first book.

As the link suggests, this can vary a lot depending on things like your level of authority, any audience you may have, and the timeliness of the topic.

Advances are usually paid out in chunks, typically in thirds.

You get the first third when you sign the contract, the second third when you turn in the manuscript, and the final third when the book is published.

These advances are then paid out by book sales and, if you’re lucky enough to pay out your advance, you start collecting royalties.

Royalties are the percentage of each book sale that an author gets.

This can range from 7.5% to 15% of the retail price depending on the kind of book that’s being sold (hardcover vs. mass market paperback vs. trade paperback vs. ebook, etc.) and the publisher.

Since all deals tend to be different, let’s say you’ve just released a book that sells for $30 as a hardcover.

If your royalty is 10%, you get $3 for each book sold.

Now, let’s also say you managed to secure a $15,000 advance.

That means you’d have to sell 5,000 copies of your book to earn out your advance.

Any books that you sell after that 5,000th book means money in the bank for you.

2. Writing your book.

OK. So, you’ve signed the contract and collected you first payment. Now what?

Well, now you write.

That initial chunk of the advance is meant to help you get through the writing phase. A non-fiction book can be a big, long, project, and it helps to have a bit of financial freedom from your job to get it done.

It’s probably going to take you anywhere from six months to a year to complete your book, depending on how much research you’ve done in advance, how well you know the source material and similar factors.

The first third of your advance is for this section.

Then there’s the editing phase.

You’re looking at another couple of months to get through this. That’s where the second third of your money goes.

3. Promotion time!

The final third of your money comes when you turn in the finished copy of your book.

Once you’ve gotten your book done and publishing dates have been set, it’s promotion time.

Yup, even if you’re with the bigger publishers, writers still end up doing the bulk of the promo work.

This is because with close to a quarter million books hitting the shelves every year, there just aren’t enough marketing people out there.

That, and frankly, no one knows your book like you do.

If you want your book to be successful, you’re going to need to market your book until you’re sick of it.

And, you’re going to have to do it every chance you get.

You’ll talk about it on social media, you’ll tell your friends, their friends, your family, their friends… Chances are, everyone who is even slightly connected to you is going to know that you have a book coming out.

And, if you’re lucky, most of them will buy it.

Going the DIY route

It wasn’t that long ago that self-publishing was seen as a bit of a fool’s errand.

Sure, you might have made some money, but the success stories were few and far between.

Flash forward to today where self-published books have been making great strides in terms of quality, being taken serious by both writers and the general public and, best of all, people have been making money doing this.

Online retailers like Amazon have made it beyond simple to self-publish a book and sell it on their site, thanks to things like Kindle Direct publishing.

Unlike the traditional publishing world, you don’t get any money up front when you go the self-publishing route.

In fact, all the associated costs of putting the book together—the ones that would have been covered by the publisher in the traditional publishing market—get covered by you.

That means you pay the editors, book designers, cover designers and all that.

All this can be done for just a few hundred with turnkey publishing sites, or for tens of thousands with elite editing and publishing services.

The more you put in at this stage, the better the chances of your book looking like it was put out by professionals and not just someone who knows Photoshop (because your book will have been put together by professionals).

But, once that’s taken care of, you get a bigger piece of the pie on the sales end.

Instead of only getting the industry standard of anywhere from 7.5% to 15%, you keep a much higher percentage after the retailer takes their cut.

In the case of Amazon Kindle Direct, you get either 35% or 70% of a sale, depending on the circumstances.

That bigger chunk of sales that you take home is going to help you pay off what was basically your advance faster (the money you spent putting your book together) and will help you start making some money.

 

What does success look like?

Best seller status is something that most writers dream of at some point or another.

It’s kind of the old school version of going viral, only with books.

Best seller lists are, as you might guess, put together based on how books are selling.

They’re calculated on a weekly basis and the criteria, data gathered, and stores used to calculate these lists tend to vary widely from list to list.

The New York Times, for example, puts together their list based on the sales from vendors across the United States, although the list is reported confidentially, so no one ever really knows for sure which stores are doing the reporting.

USA Today, on the other hand, tells you some of the vendors they rely on for their list.

And those are the easy ones to figure out.

Just look at how Amazon figures out their numbers here.

Go on. I’ll wait for a minute.

Had a look? Great. You probably noticed that for every explanation they have, there were exceptions.

The trouble with bestseller lists is, among other things, is there’s no guaranteeing anything about them.

You could have the best book in the world out there, and your book could still struggle to get on the list because of something, anything that happened in the world that week.

Take a look at the list below (from The New York Times non-fiction list), for example.

Notice that the bestselling non-fiction paper is Steven Hawking’s A Brief History of Time.

This list, as it happens, represents the week after Hawking’s death.

Things like this can throw off the momentum of just about any book, regardless of how well it has been doing in the previous week.

According to Bridget Marmion, former senior vice president of marketing for publishing houses such as Fararr, Straus and Giroux, and Random House, and founder of Your Expert Nation, being on a best seller list is always nice, but it should never be your goal.

It’s mostly because of the number of factors at play when determining the lists.

If a movie adaptation of a book happens to be coming out the same week as your book (this can happen in non-fiction as easily as it could happen in fiction, think of movies like Eat Pray Love and Wild), it’ll be a struggle to get your book on the list.

Having said that, if you can get yourself on a best seller list, it can help.

“Being on a list that is important to your audience would move the sales needle, if you’re on it for a few weeks,” says Marmion.

She adds that this can also help you with your next book, as traditional publishers are more likely to take a chance on someone whose book has been on a best seller list.

The burning question (I’m sure) is just how many books does it take to crack a best seller list?

Well, that answer, I’m afraid, is complicated.

It depends on the list, the time of year, what else is happening in the world and a host of other things.

For traditional lists like The New York Times or USA Today, those numbers look to be anywhere from 3,000 copies to 5,000 copies sold.

Getting into the Amazon Top 5 would require sales of about 300 books a day.

And, to really complicate things, it’s entirely possible to get on an Amazon best seller list by selling very few books because you’re in a category that’s so specific you’re essentially on your own.

Just check out the example located towards the end here, which hit the best seller list with only three books sold.

These numbers aren’t high, but most books, especially debut books, don’t even come close to selling that many books.

Few books earn out their advances, which means they sell enough books to pay off the advance, and the numbers for average books sold can be as little as 250 books (although like everything in the publishing industry, there’s a lot of factors at play in figuring out exact numbers like that).

So...now you've got a book out

Congrats!

It’s a great feeling being able to hold a book with your name on the front of it (trust me, I know).

At this point, you need to decide what it is you want to do with that book.

If you want that book to make money, you need to market it.

In fact, you should have started marketing it, like, six months before it came out.

Unless you’re an established name in your industry, traditional publishing houses aren’t going to put too much effort into marketing your book.

With the sheer number of books hitting the shelves every year, publishers just don’t have the time or resources to do that.

You have to be prepared to hustle and self-promote your book to make it work.

If you have any authors, fiction or non-fiction, on your social media feeds, you’ve seen them doing this before.

It takes a lot of time and energy to make it work, but if you want your book to succeed, you have to be ready.

As if this didn’t seem daunting enough, according to Nick Morgan, who helps thought leaders and public speakers publish books (among other things), most publishers give a book about two weeks to make money.

After that, a book gets remaindered, which is when a book is sent off to discount books stores or remainder bins in book stores.

That means you really have to hit the ground running with your book if you hope to get a second book, or even earn back your advance.

This can leave a lot of authors feeling betrayed, especially when you add the fact that publishers don’t really promote books enough to help you succeed.

Luckily, all is not lost.

It’s possible to use your book to help you earn money doing something else. The trick, according to Morgan, is figuring out what that something else is.

Having a book (or two) to your name is never a bad thing.

Among other things, a book helps people understand that you really know what you’re talking about, and solidifies your status as an expert in your field.

Not just anyone can sit down and write a book. It takes a solid understanding and a very firm grasp of your topic to produce a quality book.

A book helps you stake a claim as someone who is an authority on a topic.

This can be especially helpful early on in your career, when people often struggle to be taken seriously and even to make a good living.

As Morgan puts it, “You have to establish expertise via a book.” From there, you can leverage that book to grow your career.

This extra level of authority helps you almost regardless of what you do.

People are more likely to trust a vet who’s written about a pet care over one who hasn’t.

A motivational speaker who has a book is not only going to be able to charge more because of their book, but people are going to listen more. Same if you’re a journalist or a politician or an athlete.

All this means is that you have to know going in what you hope you get out of your book.

If you’re going into it expecting success and sacks full of money to start arriving at your door on the day it’s published, you’re probably going to end up disappointed.

But, if you’re willing to do the work that needs to be done (like the marketing) or you’re writing a book to help bolster some other aspect of your career, then your book is going to help you make money.

It might not be tons of money, not to start, but, like all things publishing, if you’re willing to play the long game and build up a following using that first book, it’s going to get easier and easier to make money with each subsequent book.

Enhance Your Writing With These Great Descriptive Foreign Words

Language is a fascinating and beautiful thing.

As a writer with a passion for learning foreign languages, I am always on the hunt for perfect descriptive words in any language. Throughout my many travels, and attempts to learn languages along the way, I have found that there are some great words and phrases in other languages that simply have no equivalent in English.

Take the Spanish phrase “verguenza ajena” for example. Its literal translation is “foreign shame.” The phrase is used to describe the feeling of being ashamed or embarrassed on the behalf of another person, even if they don’t share the feeling.

Another great example is the Italian word “magari.” This wonderful word has many meanings, but is most often used to describe the feeling of longing and wishful thinking. For example, if someone were to ask you if you’d like to go to Italy (ti piacerrebe andare in Italia?), you might respond with “magari.”

And, of course, there is my personal favorite: the German word “wanderlust,” which describes the strong, overwhelming desire to travel.

It seems that there are actually a lot of examples of these kinds of words in other languages, too. This great article from getpocket.com highlights 38 wonderful words with no English equivalent.  

From the Thai word “Greng-jai” (That feeling you get when you don’t want someone to do something for you because it would be a pain for them) to the Filipino “Gigil” (The urge to pinch or squeeze something that is irresistibly cute), these fantastic words are sure to delight and entertain! And, who knows, you may even find yourself adopting some of them into your own vocabulary.

The 15 Biggest Mistakes Male Authors Make When Writing Female Characters

One of the biggest challenges for a writer is the task of trying to authentically write from the perspective of the opposite gender. After all, it is nearly impossible for a woman to know exactly how a man would feel in a certain situation, and vice versa.

While there are definitely some authors who are well skilled at capturing the opposite sex, some are infamously known for their ridiculous and sometimes overly stereotypical interpretations.

This fun article from ackward.com explores this very issue, with their list of the top 15 mistakes that male authors make when writing female characters.

What Have You Learned Today? How Learning New Things And Writing About Them Can Improve Your Health

It has been scientifically proven that learning something new every day can improve both your brain function and your overall well-being.  After all, our brains are muscles, and just like all other muscles, they must constantly be used and strengthened. Whether it be through learning a new language or working on becoming a better writer, it is imperative that we keep challenging our brains every day.

It has been found that exercising our brains comes with all sort of positive side effects, including staving off diseases such as Parkinson’s,  Alzheimer’s, and dementia. It can also help to make us happier, by helping us build confidence and a better sense of self-esteem.

But, how can we make sure that we are constantly learning new things and challenging our brains? Well, this great forum from reddit has the perfect solution! Each day, the forum provides new posts full of interesting information that readers have learned that day.  You can go in and read about their newfound knowledge and, in turn, learn something new yourself.

As an added bonus, you can sharpen your writing skills (and further boost your brain power) by posting all of the new things you have learned lately!

Pen Names and The Famous Writers Who Use Them

If you have ever read a book and found yourself thinking that the style and way of writing seemed very familiar, it is possible that the book you are reading was actually written by your favorite author —only under a pen name.

A pen name, also known as a nom de plume or a pseudonym, is an assumed name used by an author, in place of their own name.

Some authors write exclusively under their pen name, while others write under both their actual name and their pen name (or multiple pen names, in some cases).

But, why do authors use pen names? And how do they come up with the pen names they use?

While the answer for that varies from author to author, we have come up with a list of 8 famous authors who have used pen names, and the reasons behind their decision to forgo their real names on their books.

Mark Twain (real name Samuel Clemens):

It is a well-known fact that Mark Twain’s real name was Samuel Langhorne Clemens. It is said that Clemens got the name “Mark Twain” from his former job as a riverboat captain. The term, “Mark Twain”, is a river term that means “two fathoms,” or 12 feet. The sounding of “Mark Twain” on a riverboat meant that it was safe to navigate the water. 

What is not so well known is the fact that Clemens also wrote under the names Thomas Jefferson Snodgrass, Sergeant Fathom, and W. Epaminondas Adrastus Blab. 

It is said that Samuel Clemens chose to write under pen names as a way to have literary freedom, and protect his family from repercussions due to the content and opinions of the characters in his books.

Dr. Seuss (real name Theodor Seuss Geisel):

Theodor Seuss Geisel is famous worldwide for his children’s books, penned under the name “Dr. Seuss.” Geisel first started using this pen name in college, after he was caught drinking by the Dean of the school, stripped of his position as editor of the Dartmouth college’s humor magazine, “Jack-o-Lantern,” and banned from writing for the magazine. In order to trick the administration and continue writing for the magazine, Geisel adopted the name Dr. Theophrastus Seuss, which he later shortened to Dr. Seuss. Geisel was not actually a doctor of any sort, having dropped out of the PhD program at Oxford. The “Dr.” in his pen name was in honor of his father, who had hoped that Geisel would someday get his PhD. The “Seuss” came from Geisel’s middle name, which was also his mother’s maiden name.

While not nearly as famous as his “Dr. Seuss” pen name, Geisel also famously wrote under the names Theo LeSieg (Geisel spelled backwards) and Rosetta Stone.

George Orwell (real name Eric Arthur Blair):

When author Eric Arthur Blair was ready to publish his first book, Down and Out in Paris and London, he was concerned that his family would be embarrassed by the stories of their time in poverty. In order to protect them, he decided to adopt a pen name. He chose the name George Orwell to reflect his deep love of England. George is the patron saint of England, and Orwell was the name of a river where he loved to go sailing.

Lemony Snicket (real name Daniel Handler):

It is likely that most people cannot identify any books written by Daniel Handler. However, one would be hard-pressed to find someone who has never heard of Lemony Snicket and his popular children’s series’ A Series of Unfortunate Events and All the Wrong Questions.

It is said that Handler first adopted the pen name of Lemony Snicket when he was doing research for his first novel, Basic Eight. He needed to contact various right-wing organizations, but did not want them to have his real name. Thus, Lemony Snicket was born.

Stan Lee (real name Stanley Martin Lieber):

Debatably one of the most famous comic book writers in the world, Lieber originally made the decision to write under the name Stan Lee because he hoped to one day graduate to writing more serious literary work, and planned to save his real name for that. Once it became apparent that he was destined to be known for his comic books, Lieber made the decision to legally change his name to Stan Lee.

Richard Bachman (real name Stephen King):

When King first started his writing career, it was a common belief in the publishing world that an author could only successfully release one book per year. In order to bypass this belief, King created the pseudonym “Richard Bachman,” so that he could release multiple books per year. King ended up publishing seven novels under the name of Bachman, before the connection between his pen name and his real identity were discovered.

While King claims that he created his pen name in order to get away with releasing more books per year, it is said that he also wanted to see if “lightening could strike twice.” He wondered if his writing talent alone could launch his Richard Bachman personality into as much fame as he had achieved under his own name. Interestingly, though, the books he released under the name Richard Bachman did not gain success until it was publicly known that the books were King’s.

JK Rowling and Robert Galbraith (real name Joanne Rowling):

Now famous worldwide for her Harry Potter series, Rowling’s publishers were at first unsure if her target audience of pre-teen boys would accept stories about wizards that were written by a woman. For that reason, they encouraged her to use initials on the books instead of her first name. Having no middle name, Rowling adopted the “K” from her grandmother’s name, Kathleen, and became known as J.K. Rowling.

What may surprise some, though, is that Rowling has been writing crime novels under yet another pen name: Robert Galbraith. Rowling has said that she made the decision to write her crime novels under another pseudonym, so that she could freely write without having the pressure from being the author of the wildly successful Harry Potter books. She liked the appeal of being able to create something completely different, and wanted her crime novels to stand (or fall) on their own merits.

Mary Westmacott (real name Agatha Mary Clarissa Christie):

Known as the Queen of Crime, Agatha Christie created 66 detective novels and 14 short story collections during her impressive writing career. However, what is unknown to many is the fact that she also wrote six romance novels under a pen name, Mary Westmacott, which she managed to keep secret for 20 years.

It is said that Christie adopted her pen name, so that she could more easily switch genres from mystery and crime to romance.

Is “You’re Welcome” in Danger of Becoming Extinct?

What ever happened to saying, “you’re welcome?”

With terms such as “no problem” and “of course!” gaining popularity in today’s society, it seems that “you’re welcome” is becoming a phrase of the past.

But, why is that? Are people nowadays more rude and inconsiderate? Are we, as a society, lacking in proper etiquette?

According to this interesting read from Country Living, it seems that it actually may be a culture shift in language and our hyper-sensitivity to being considerate that is to blame.

With the rise in popularity of sarcastically using “you’re welcome” without the prompt of “thank you,” the phrase has become associated with being facetious or rude. 

It is important to note, however, that the phrase itself may not be the real problem; it’s the way in which the phrase is delivered.  In fact, graciously saying “you’re welcome” is still a perfectly acceptable and polite response.

So, how can we make sure that “you’re welcome” does not go extinct? According to the article, we should stop being sensitive when we express gratitude and receive a “you’re welcome” in response. Instead, we should accept the expression and encourage the use of “you’re welcome” to flourish once again.

25 New Words of 2018

If you spend any time on the internet or on social media, you are bound to notice that there is an ever-evolving plethora of new words being created all of the time.

What you may not know, however, is that the editors at Miriam-Webster keep track of all of these words.  In fact, just last year they added over 840 new words to their dictionary.

From “adorbs” and “hangry” to “marg” and “guac,” this fun article from Mental Floss explores 25 of the great new words that were added to the Miriam-Webster dictionary in 2018.