A Silent Killdeer Publishing — An Independent Book Publisher

Writing Your Life Story

by Russell Dyer
published:  dec 19, 2017;  revised:  jan 19, 2018;  readers in past month:  344

When we meet people for the first time, after we’ve told them that we’re a book publisher, many will say often that they want to be a writer and they want to write a novel about their life story. This is a common desire, but most haven’t thought through what they’re saying. Their life story for a novel is not only a mammoth task that would be difficult to write or ever finish, it’s not very marketable. For those who are sincere in their desire to be a writer, we have some advice, some of which may seem negative but in the end we hope will be useful.

Being a Writer

When would-be writers say they want to write their life story, they’re saying they want to write an autobiography, not a novel, just one story with no intentional creative deviation. Were they to write full-time such a novel — assuming it would be no more than three-hundred pages — it should take only a month to write. So, they’re saying basically that they want to be a writer for one month. That is not a writer. It’s just someone who wants to write something, one thing.

A writer writes all of the time — or at least often. If she’s a fiction writer, she writes novels and short-stories, and sometimes articles about her novels. When she writes short, daily life text (e.g., posts on-line and email), she considers what she writes and how it will be read. She may even do the same when speaking. But a person who seeks only to write their autobiography, and finds no joy in writing anything else, is not a writer.

It’s not our intention to be discouraging with this assessment. Instead, this article is meant to help would-be writers to determine what they want and how to direct it, properly. Forgiving or ignoring the misuse of the word writer, let’s consider how such a book would be received were they to write it. Actually, not all say they want to write it. Some ask if we would like to write their story.

Marketability

These same people usually claim that their life story is a fascinating one. From a reader’s perspective, it’s usually not. Unless their life has been well directed — but not in a boring controlling way, but with a balance of struggles and successes — it’s probably an uninteresting meander of events with no conclusion. From a marketing perspective, unless their story is spectacular and has made the news, or they are famous in some other way, almost none of the public will buy their novel. Only a few friends and relatives will buy it and almost none of them will read it all the way through.

Still, these writer-hopefuls go years of wanting to write their autobiography. We shouldn’t criticize their desire and ambition. After all, they may have something to offer the world of literature. In a sense, everyone’s life and everyone’s story is interesting. It’s just whether their story is interesting to many other people, if it can bring comfort or influence others. So let’s consider what they are saying when they say they want to write.

Writer Psychology

Basically and usually, writers want to be heard, to be remembered, and to be understood, and maybe to be admired. So much has happened in their life, much of which includes their thoughts and feelings. They want to put on paper what has happened to them so that others can see all of the scenes and hear the most critical part, the narration. This desire to record their story from their perspective to include their thoughts is probably stemming from a psychological need. This is not a bad thing, but if you want to be a writer and this is the basis, you should be aware of it. It’s probably a driving force for many novelists.

The Magnitude of a Life Story

Knowing why you want to write and what you want to accomplish makes it easier to write. If you want to be a writer and not just write one book about yourself, your own story can be a useful start — one you may retell many times. Let’s puts some numbers to this. It takes only a few hours to read a typical novel, although most read a book a little at a time spread over a week or two. Based on how many hours have you lived, if you tried to write your complete life story, it would fill a bookstore. Think about how many things are happening in any moment and how much can be observed: what’s being said by each person; what everyone is wearing; the objects around the main people of the scene, including sounds, colors, and smells; plus, what everyone is doing, their body language and their thoughts. You could write a book about the events of one day. It probably wouldn’t be very interesting, but you could do it.

Given all that one could write about one person’s life, to condense their story into a novel of less than three hundred pages, you have to eliminate plenty and choose which moments to include. It’s difficult to do, though, because there are some events that are entertaining, but not relevant to the main story you want to tell. To be able to tell about these unrelated events, just write another short story or novel. This brings us to the main advice we are trying to offer in this article.

Using Life Stories

If you want to be a writer and want to write novels, use the story of your life for material to write novels. You can’t write a story without it being somewhat autobiographical; some of you will always be in any story you write. So embrace it, benefit from it, but don’t be restricted by it. If you had three great, long-term relationships in your life, you could potentially write a novel around each. Things that happened to you as a small child can be one novel, and what happened to you as a teenager another. Your life can be the basis of several novels. Don’t waste it in one long meandering, dull story.

But more than chopping your life story into multiple novels, expand upon them, and change your stories. This is your chance to change your life story to the way you wish it had occurred. For instance, if you met someone and were attracted to them, but they rejected you, you could say in the story they were attracted to you and you had a brief love affair before separating. For each story you tell, you can assume a different identity for yourself, give yourself a different name, occupation, life style, whatever. You can have fun with life in this way. You can also use the experiences of others, things you observe others doing, their personalities to create characters and your story.