How to write a book about your life: tips for beginners
If life has brought you to this article, it means that you have something to tell about yourself, but you do not know how to write a book about your life, where at least to start?
I want to reassure you – anyone can do it, it’s just important to give them the right direction, set the course of thought and sequence of actions. In fact, writing a memoir can be not only a laborious and tedious work, as it seems at first, but also a very interesting and exciting activity. Of its importance and benefit is not to speak of!
In this article I will try to give you some basic principles to guide you in your own work with memories. They will help you to save a lot of effort and time, because I offer you a clear structure and a certain mode of work, which will take at most a few hours a week, but will bring very significant results: for example, you will be able to make your own memoirs into a book with a consistent and interesting presentation of the events of your life.
If you want to go down in history and leave a memory for posterity, write a book about your life!
Many people, regardless of age, social status, beliefs and worldview, want to leave some kind of written testimony about their lives and family members. There is nothing bad in this desire, on the contrary, each person can leave an invaluable memory about himself/herself and his/her relatives for future generations of the Kin.
If my grandparents, parents had left such records in their times, I would be immensely grateful to them. For me, such archives would be family heirlooms to be inherited, with each subsequent generation adding its pages to them. Thus, the connection and continuity of generations of our Clan would be preserved.
But, alas, I have no such materials. But I want them to appear: That’s why I ventured to give a new beginning to the old tradition and collect the first materials for my genealogy book. Especially since my husband and I founded a family estate, planted family trees, God forbid us, as they say, to deal with the family chronicle.
Such materials can then even become historical documents, because they are true and written by a living witness of the time, which in the future will be only a vague shadow of bygone eras. So don’t suppress this valuable impulse in yourself and try to start at least the initial work with your own memories.
And remember, there are no uninteresting fates. Everyone has something to say about themselves, their deeds and relatives. If you, as it seems to you, have no special talent for writing, I can comfort you: when a person is sincere and truthful about himself, it is always interesting to listen. And if you want a little better text, correct it, you can always turn to professionals, proofreaders and editors, including our school of creative writing “Living Word.
4 Consistent Steps in Working with Memoirs
Before you begin, you must first understand that our life is a peculiar layer cake of a great many events, people, memorable dates, family and friendships, professional activities, hobbies and interests, worldviews and religious beliefs and all the other little things.
That’s why a person who wants to write a memoir just doesn’t know how to sort it all out and put it on paper, gets lost and postpones this enormous task for later, usually for an indefinite “in old age, when time will be”.
Except that in old age, if one manages to live to it, for some reason he has no strength or desire to write down his life, especially since his memory is not the same, and events are already covered with the patina of time, and favorite family faces have faded from memory. And so the person leaves, taking with them a priceless weight of memories, which could be a real gift for those who stayed …
The first thing to do is to stratify the “pie” and give each layer its own place. You should have something like a file cabinet, where the initial accumulation of material will take place. One should not try to write a single coherent book at once – it is not an easy task even for masters!
But each person can gradually create a very high-quality archive of records. It is not even the fact that one will collect materials into a book; this can also be done with the help of specialists or with the efforts of all interested family members.
So, Task #1 – Creating a Memoir File
You will either need to have several separate notebooks, each with its own name, or create a “Memoirs” folder on your computer, and in it, several separate folders with their own names. In digital folders you can put not only text documents, but also audio recordings from a voice recorder. Many people find it much easier to speak text than to record it.
Both of these options have their own nuances. If you write by hand, remember that your notes will be difficult for anyone but you to read. And if you’re going to eventually put together a book of memoirs, you’re going to have to digitize the information somehow anyway. So it’s best for those who write by hand to immediately transfer the finished record to the appropriate computer folder as well.
Those who are used to working on a computer, however, should take care first of all about the safety of such valuable information. No one is insured against system crashes and loss of information, so my advice to you is to try to save the information on several sources. Use flash drives, external hard drives, and information storage on the Internet, in particular, it is a good idea to master Google-documents or Yandex-disk.
Task #2 – Define categories of memories
Now we have to sign our folders or notebooks. This is easy enough: we need to identify the main, most valuable “layers” of our lives. Each folder will represent that layer. Here we can apply the simplest classification, which suits everyone:
- Relatives (close people);
- Major life events;
- Professional activities (business/work)
- My time (historical events)
- Places and travels
- Philosophical reflections
Virtually all of human life fits into these basic categories. But of course, everyone can have their own categories that are important to them, such as “Children/family”, “Kin estate”, “Relationships and feelings”, “Work in a factory from so-and-so to so-and-so year”, “Second marriage”, “Interests and hobbies”, etc. It is up to you to decide which and how many folders you will have.
Task #3 – Determine the frequency and order of entries.
Here you set yourself a definite two-part goal.
The first part of the goal:
You need to decide how much time, say a week, you can devote to working with your memories.
It’s best if you make a certain ritual out of this subgoal: for example, on Sunday nights you make yourself an herbal tea, sit down in your favorite chair, choose one of the categories, and make a record there. You determine the size and quality of the entries yourself, too. My advice at this stage is not to bother with the editing, and write as God wills. Your main task is to get into the flow and write. And do it regularly, at least once a week.
So you decide to write about your wedding, for example. You sit down, cling to your memory the first memory associated with the wedding, write a few sentences, and then “plummet” into the flow. And it’s great – you write everything that comes to mind, without worrying about logic or quality. Now you just need to get the text out.
How you choose the categories is also up to you. You can do it by sentiment: for example, today you want to write about your grandmother. This is the category “Relatives. The next time you want to write about a trip to Jamaica – so write about it.
But some people find it easier if they work on a schedule – one day this category, the next day the next, until there’s one entry in each. And then again from the top down. So in this matter, be guided solely by your nature and inclination.
Second part of the goal:
Determine if you will be editing and structuring your notes at this stage of the work. On the one hand, the cleaner and more logical the material, the easier it is to make a quality book out of it. If you want to create such a book in your lifetime, it is better to edit and structure it at once.
On the other hand, editing and building the structure of the book is a separate work that requires a separate time and a different mindset. It is better not to mix writing and editing, but to alternate between the two. You can first accumulate a certain number of notes and then begin the work of cleaning and putting them together.
Here again, it’s worth listening carefully to yourself and figuring out which order of work best suits your habits, peculiarities, and inclinations. Editing and structuring records can be delegated to professionals, but for this you need to plan a separate item of expenditure, or to attract the help of someone from your family with the right skills.
For those who have no idea at all how to work with raw texts, turning them into clean and beautiful, easy-to-read and memorable texts, I recommend buying my course “Purging” with detailed video-lessons, in which the main principles of creating high-quality living texts are explained.
If you put these simple steps into practice, in just a few months you’ll have a lot of working material. At some point you may feel that it is time to start systematizing it somehow. And we move on to the next stage.
Task #4 – organize your material.
Professional writers know that half the skill of writing rests on the skill of crossing out. Indeed, if you plan to collate what you’ve gathered into a single book, you have to make sure it’s interesting to the reader.
That is, you’re going to have to shift your focus from yourself to the reader. That’s not always easy or easy to do, especially for people who don’t know much about writing. So my main advice at this point is to enlist the help of someone on the outside. This can be a relative, an acquaintance, or even an outsider.
Your main task is to get an outsider’s perspective. Therefore, the more impartial your listener or first reader is, the better. He will tell you what is really worth leaving in the memoirs, and what is not worthy of attention. It’s a shame to part with your texts, but, believe me, if you want to build a logical and coherent memoir, and not just a collection of memories, be prepared to get rid of a lot of them.
You want to keep only the most valuable, the most important, and the most interesting, the things that really influenced you and your family, that shaped your character and values. Things that contain valuable information about other relatives, are of historical value (for example, you had a chance to communicate with a famous person or witness a historical event). To learn to see your texts with “x-ray” vision and soberly assess their logic and weightiness you will be helped by my course “Purging”, which sets out the basic principles of editing.
How to structure the material, what principle to adhere to?
The easiest and most effective way is chronological. The vast majority of memoirs are structured this way, only the most seasoned professionals sometimes allow themselves the liberty and mix memories, subjecting them to a different idea, but I advise you not to do so, unless you are guided by an inner instinct and understanding of how you want to organize your materials.
Structuring and finalizing your materials is the most difficult task of all. Sometimes much more time is spent on the layout and fitting, piecing together notes and sorting and polishing them than on the actual writing. And here, too, untrained person is better to seek help from professionals: editors, proofreaders and typesetters.
But the result and you will be pleasantly pleased – in the end, you take in the hands of a nicely decorated book of your memories, with beautiful photos, high-quality text and print, which would not be ashamed to put on a shelf or give to family. Such a book will be handed down from generation to generation and may inspire other members of the Clan to write such books. Just imagine how great that would be!