Writing a book about your life can be a daunting and complex effort. It’s hard to know where to start, what to include, and which parts to leave out. How do you tell a compelling, memorable story that will interest people? How do I write a book about my life is difficult for many to answer, particularly if they are new writers.
You write a book about your life by figuring out what knowledge or information of value you want others to learn from you. What is your book’s purpose? First, write a brief outline combining your story with any advice readers should know, then write a few pages for each outline part to build your book.
What Story Do You Have That Is Worth Sharing?
Although many people think that you have to be famous or well known to write a book about yourself, this is not necessarily a barrier if you are a regular person.
If you have had an interesting life, a huge challenge you have overcome, or something serious happened to you, it can be tempting to want to write a book about your personal experience and many people have done just that.
The first question to ask yourself is if you have a story worth sharing? Would others be interested in reading your story and what would they gain from it? If you do not think you have anything interesting to say or teach others, then it is unlikely that a book will succeed.
Be honest with yourself but don’t write yourself off too quickly!
Many regular people who are not famous have had valuable experiences worthy of documenting and passing on to others.
Take some time to make notes about your story and note any problems you faced and how you dealt with them. What good times and bad times have you had? Do they make the basis for a compelling book?
Mentally Prepare Yourself
If you have done the above exercise and decided your story is compelling, it is time to prepare and get ready to start writing.
Step one is to mentally prepare yourself. If you are writing about your travel experiences or running away to join the circus, this is likely to be easy and not such an important step.
This preparation step is much more vital if you are covering a touchy or painful subject such as a story involving personal loss, critical illness or a traumatic experience, but whatever the topic, you are exposing a lot about yourself in this process.
To be an effective book, your writing will require brutal honesty to document the full facts and story and this could be very emotionally difficult depending on the topic.
Take the time you need to make sure you are prepared. Think about what problems you might face recalling a difficult time in your life. Then, if required, make sure you have a sound support system around you as you begin writing.
A book is a long-term commitment and it could take a long time before you have finished your book, if ever if you are not adequately prepared.
Inform Others and Get Permission
If your story involves others, it is important for you to explain what you are doing and why and get their permission to involve them. If they are hesitant about sharing, you can build your story around them or skip this part of the story entirely. You are telling your story, not theirs.
Explain fully to them what your purpose is in writing and how you plan to use the information. Explain likely implications and risks, and again get their permission. You should not use anyone’s information without knowing you have the authority to do so.
This is very important if you include others who may not be happy about parts of their personal lives suddenly available to the public.
Pick a Genre
This is a quick and easy step but very important. What genre of book will you be writing?
The reason to do this now is that the way you write the story will differ depending on your chosen genre. This will also determine how bookstores categorize your book and what other books you will be grouped with for display purposes or in reviews, for example.
Are you writing this just to tell your story or to help others in some way? If you are telling a story, is it an autobiography or a memoir? If you intend to help others, is it the motivational genre or a self-help book?
Pick one upfront by looking into the writing styles for each so you know what will work best for you.
Create a Character List
In the first section, you made notes on your story. In this part, make a list of all the interesting characters you could write about in your book.
In this exercise, make a relatively comprehensive list of anyone who could appear. Then, keep this list in mind as you go through the following two sections.
As you create the outline, go through this list and reduce it to only the people who provide critical support for your story. You do need any filler or background characters unless they add some vital aspect to your book.
There is no limit to how many people you can include, but make sure each has a role to play. Once you do this, you should see a clearer picture of your project and your story.
Create an Outline
Time to create the outline. The setting is the next essential item to detail to add to your outline.
Your notes made earlier will already provide a good start for the outline. Next, write a paragraph or two about the setting for your story. Include a map, picture and drawing in your outline if it will help you visualize the events.
Next, create a timeline of the events in a general order you will tell them in your story. It may seem odd to have to decide the order but remember that it does not need to be the same as you experienced them.
If your retelling works better with them in a different order, then do that. Decide the timeline of the book versus reality in the outline.
Include events that influence the characters involved and anything that affected you or the outcome, even if it is not a major event. You can add or remove later as you write but aim for a solid outline before moving on to write.
Do not worry about making it too detailed at this stage. Your goal is to keep the story in mind and to think about the major events and how they fit together to give the reader a clear picture of events as they unfold for them.
Perform Your Research. (And Yes, You Still Need to do This Step)!
This is a step that is commonly skipped for people writing about themselves. They just assume that if it is about themselves, they already know what they need to know.
The bad news is that the memory is well known to create things that did not happen or be at least somewhat inaccurate in their recollection.
To make sure your book is accurate, take the time to do your research and establish, as far as you can, that your memory is backed up by facts. Don’t get caught in an easily provable falsehood, just to save a little time.
When writing about yourself, this is often your problem; you only remember the good things about yourself and omit the not-so-good things.
This is where you need to do your research and avoid this issue. Don’t skip it!
Make it Honest and Personal
Hindsight allows you to tell your story from the time and use the benefit of hindsight to reflect on what you did, how and mistakes you made. So, for example, if you are writing about when you found your true love, you will look back from that point and critique the decisions you made from the time.
As you write this knowing the outcome, readers will be more involved if you make the story very personal and be totally honest about what happened to pull the reader in. If you made mistakes that you did not see at the time but are very clear with the benefit of hindsight, make the readers aware of these. If they can see the mistake, they will be more involved with your story and more likely to continue reading.
This is a good rule to apply to all your writing. Make it personal. Write about what you experienced, how you felt, what you were thinking at the time and what you have learned since. Your readers will appreciate this honesty as the more they understand you, the more they will be open to reading your story.
Finish a Draft
Make sure to finish at least one draft. Don’t worry about the quality too much during the first draft. Too many authors, particularly new writers, spend far too long trying to perfect each chapter before moving on.
This can kill your motivation and lead to abandoning the whole project. Don’t let this happen by committing to finishing the first draft. You can fix and improve after the first draft is done.
I think momentum is one of the most important things for a first-time or inexperienced writer. Keeping moving on your draft can be hard to do, particularly if your story is taking a lot longer than you’d expected. But momentum is essential. If you are writing a book, it means it is an idea you care about. You want to tell the story and you want to get it down. You may feel like you can do better, and maybe you can, but try not to think about that too much for the first pass at your story.
You will have plenty of time to revise and improve later and you will find it will be much easier to see the gaps and weak parts if you have a complete draft to review.
Revise and Expand
You will inevitably remember more as you work through the book. It is totally fine to go back and update or expand earlier sections to make them more accurate or exciting when you remember something later.
As more of your story starts to take shape, you will begin to think of better stories and experiences to put in it. You can use the writing, editing and expanding process a few times to take an early draft to a longer and far richer text.
Your first draft can be thought of as a very detailed outline and the second version will very likely show a dramatic improvement. Pushing through the first draft and making sure to get it finished in a reasonable time will mean you are much more likely to actually end up with a publishable book.
Those who try to create a high-quality draft during the first pass often never even finish that and indeed never get published.
Don’t let this be you!
Writing a book about yourself can be a very challenging project, but it is one of the most rewarding achievements you can complete. Follow our guidance above, take your time on each step and you can be one of those who end with a publishable book.
Good luck! Let us know in the comments below how you get on.