An old saying goes that “everyone has a story inside of them that wants to get out and be shared with others. ” It’s also said that “truth is stranger than fiction,” an adage that continues to prove itself time and again whenever people decide to write about the events, experiences and individuals that have helped to shape their lives and influence the decisions they have made to be heroes, cowards or just plain colorful. If you feel that your own life would make scintillating reading, here’s what you need to know to get started.
1. Identify the true purpose of penning your memoirs for others to read. For many people, it’s simply a legacy they want to leave their children and grandchildren to treasure. For others, it’s a journalistic tool for taking stock of where they’ve been and deciding where they want to go next. 2. Determine whether your autobiography will only be read by family members and friends or whether you want to get it published and read by total strangers. Assess whether your memoirs could do more damage than good. Catharsis may be lovely for the soul but not necessarily well received by others.
3. Read the autobiographies of other people in order to gain an appreciation of how they organized their thoughts and kept their stories moving smoothly from beginning to end. 4. Identify whether your autobiography is going to be a chronological account from childhood to the present or just focus on certain topical events that caused you to redefine or reinvent yourself. 5. Decide whether it is easier for you to write your memoirs or dictate them into a tape or digital recorder and have them transcribed.
Sometimes in collecting your thoughts, it’s easier to engage in a chatty stream of remembrance first without having to worry about pesky things like spelling, grammar and punctuation. 6. Determine how long your autobiography is going to be. Whether your intended audience will be your immediate family or strangers, most readers prefer the bite-size consistency of chapters as opposed to one long, meandering narrative without any breaks. Let’s say your autobiography is going to be 200 pages.
If you decide to allocate 10 pages to each chapter, your book will be 20 chapters. 7. Identify the beginning, middle and end of your autobiography. Just like a work of fiction, an autobiography needs to have a first, second and third act. Keeping this in mind will help you focus on each stage of your life you want to cover instead of jumping all over the place and throwing in anecdotes out of context. You may even find it helpful to outline the chapters or make a rough table of contents before you actually start writing.
8. Identify how your experiences can be made relevant to the lives and interests of the people who will be reading about them. If, for example, you have traveled all over the world and taken lots of photographs, your memoirs will help people understand the context of the trips and perhaps inspire them to do some future globetrotting of their own. 9. Consider joining a writer’s critique group. Share sample stories to gauge interest and learn how to make your writing more interesting. The resources listed at the end of this article will also provide you with food for thought.