4 Tips for Writing Your Personal Story
Recently at church I was introduced to a gentleman who insisted I take a copy of his brand-new book. Being a book guy, I opened it later that evening and began reading. It tells in graphic detail about a horrendous experience the author had at 10 years old that has continue to be the central defining theme of his life. As I was reading it, some points for authors came to mind:
1. Don’t assume that everything that has happened to you is interesting to everyone else. Why would something that is gross, violent, aberrant, or atrocious be interesting to someone else – other than as an unhealthy voyeur? In the age of Twitter and Facebook it’s easy to assume that people are interested in knowing you ate a Twinkie for breakfast – but frankly, I don’t believe that’s true.
2. Believe that some life experiences are best resolved in private – not spewed on the world. Maybe reality TV has made us believe that every intimate thought or interaction is fair game for spectators but I think some things are best handled in private. There is still a place for decency and decorum – and for things that are private. Technology has made our lives more transparent but we can choose what level of transparency we allow.
3. Make sure that your writing is not only “descriptive” but also “prescriptive.” Tell the reader what to do to avoid or heal from a similar experience. Screenwriters often use an inciting incident to begin the story. And yes, in your life an inciting incident could be a layoff, a firing, a heart attack or a tragic personal experience. The conflicts and challenges give a framework and direction for your resolution. But then give the recommendations. No one wants to see a movie where there is no resolution of the inciting incident. And few people will ever want to read a book where the hero is still, after 40 years, locked in the same inciting incident that began the story. In the movie of your life, you are the director, and if nothing changes people will question your movie – or your book.
4. Know that there’s still a place for writing that speaks of things that are positive, pure, wholesome and uplifting. I know the news media theme “if it bleeds it leads” but we don’t’ have to follow that sensationalist model. In Philippians 4:8 it says “Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.” (TNIV) Reality TV is a race to the bottom in terms of what is gross and graphic. Do we as authors really want to follow that trend?
Reading this book also brought to mind a couple pertinent quotations:
“This is not a book that should be tossed lightly aside. It should be hurled with great force.” – Dorothy Parker
And this one:
“Thank you for sending me a copy of your book – I’ll waste no time reading it.” – Moses Hadas
Writing a book is a big responsibility. Yes, I know anyone can knock out a manuscript and get it printed with today’s technology and I’m grateful for that. But I think we as authors bear some responsibility for being stewards of the resources required in creating a book and certainly for the focused time and energy we expect from our readers. Will readers’ lives be better – or worse – as a result of reading your book? Will they make the world a better place or will they tear down what is wholesome, pure and good?
My goals for writing are to encourage people to dream again, to instill in them the belief they can make new choices and to inspire them to higher levels of success in every area of their lives. Is that unique to me and my focused genre or is it reasonable to expect that of other authors?
Dan Miller is a writer and life coach living in Franklin, TN. You can read his blog and participate in the active social community at 48Days.net with others who are creating lives that are meaningful, purposeful, and profitable. His latest book, Wisdom Meets Passion, was released August 28th with Thomas Nelson.