Welcome to Writing Tip Tuesday #1
Today we will look at different ways you can write your life story. Check out my short video or enjoy the blog below to discover new and creative ways you can write your life story.
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I like to use the term life story to encompass all the different ways we can tell a life story. Think of it as an umbrella term which includes, biography, autobiography, personal essays, memoir or family stories.
What is the difference between an autobiography and a memoir?
Autobiography is a chronological account of your life where you include all or most of your life events.
Memoir is different in that it usually focuses on one aspect of your life which you explore in more detail. It’s also about the reflection or the hindsight you bring to the story about that theme or aspect.
Biographies and autobiographies are usually written about people who are famous (or infamous) and can include political figures, public figures or celebrities but you don’t have to be famous to write your autobiography. Romulus, My Father, written by Raimond Gaita is a beautiful example of an autobiography. It’s the story of a migrant family coming to Australia in the 1950s but the exploration of the characters, the social comment about a time in Australia’s history and the themes of family and belonging, makes it interesting and universal to a wider audience. This book is also very short, so you don’t need to write an “epic” book which includes every little detail but rather what’s important and how can it be said in your authentic voice.
What I love about writing memoir is that you could write a number of memoirs because you can focus on one topic or theme at a time.
For example, Elizabeth Gilbert’s Eat Pray Love was about her journey to find herself after her divorce. It didn’t go into great length about her childhood, marriage, history etc. The focus was on eating her way through Italy, working on her spirituality in India and ultimately finding love in Bali. She then went on to write another memoir, Committed, about her marriage. So, if you love writing memoir you could write about any aspects that interest you and relate them to your life.
What are your Reasons for Writing a Life Story?
Here are some examples of why people want to write their life story:
- Personal – explore the self, heal & grow
- Express their creativity
- Record or document family stories
- Leave a legacy
- Instigate change
- Record history
- Help others and inspire
- Simply tell a story
Who would want to read my story?
Many people say to me, “Who would want to read my story, anyway?”
You may not think that your story is interesting or exceptional. You may think, ‘it’s been told before’, but the truth is everyone has a story and it’s the way you tell it, (in your voice, in your authentic way) that makes it special.
Australians love life stories. For a small population, we sell more memoirs than other countries. You just have to see the number of Reality TV shows to see how people love real life stories (and how voyeuristic we are).
Themes may be the same but no two life stories are identical. What I’ve found is that often life is more surprising or shocking than what anyone could make up!
Forms or Structure of Memoir
These are exciting times to be writing a book because the possibilities are endless. You can write a book of text, you can include pictures, with e-books you can provide links and make an interactive book. Here are some examples of how you could present your life story:
- Narrative such as creative non-fiction – which is facts written using narrative elements such as dialogue, character development, setting, plot development etc
- Family history – collection of stories
- Series of letter
- Diary / Journal
- Travel Memoir
- Meditations on people or places
- Book of Poems, Songs, Recipes
- Investigative Journey – telling the story as you go along
- DVD, CDs, Interactive Books, Blogs
The list is endless and you are only limited by your imagination.
The form or how you present your life story is dictated by your WHY
What’s Your Why?
What is important is knowing why you want to write your book and if it’s a memoir – what is the focus or the theme of your book. This will help you stay on track as you write it and know what to leave in and to edit out.
The topic or theme of your book will affect the way you write it and present it.
My Why has been to understand my family’s story in order to understand where I came from and who I am – so it’s all about the quest for the truth, a search for answers and ultimately to let the past go. What was supposed to be a memoir about one aspect of my family’s life has become more of an epic family story.
So another tip is to be open to the process of writing, what comes up for you and what can change throughout the process.
- Decide on what type of life story you want to write (autobiography or memoir)
- What’s your why?
- Out of your why – what is your focus or theme
- Do you have an idea on how you want to present it
These 4 steps are very important and when you become clear around these – your writing process will be so much easier.
I’d love to know what your story idea is and how you think you can present it. Do you have another different way that you could present it?
Please feel free to ask any questions about today’s topic. I’d love to help.
If you want to write your life story but are unsure how to go about it, you can contact me for a consultation, so I can help you get started.
Click on the link below which will take you to my “Need Writing Help” and scroll down to my Consultation Services to book.
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