Afterthoughts

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Writing a book of your life

Many of us have pondered the idea of publishing a book, but have you ever considered writing your own autobiography?  It’s a trend that it growing alongside the availability of self-publishing tools and services.  Producing a book of your life can be a therapeutic process and the end result can be a valued gift for family and friends and a cherished keepsake for future generations. But where to start?

Keep it simple

The idea of creating a book running to 10,000s of words can be daunting, but your story doesn’t have to be that big.  Researching and dotting down key dates, facts, relationships and events can be a great start and will ensure, at the very least, that future generations have this information to reference.  You could even consider making a picture book if you have access to old photos and there are plenty of journals and formatted notebooks you can buy to make this process even easier.

Your story

You don’t have to be famous or have made ground breaking accomplishments to have an engaging story.  Think about what you are most interested in writing about. Your story could be about a period of your life that you’re most motivated to tell.  It may only cover one or two years, or there might be a couple of key events that you feel are the most important to frame a story around. A book could also focus on something you’re passionate about and how that has unfolded throughout your life.

Top tips for writing

  • Make time to do it.  Two hours every day might suit, or you might like to set aside a long weekend to immerse yourself to get started.  Observe what time of day you like to write and for how long and set yourself deadlines to motivate yourself. 
  • Start with planning and pad out sections with facts and ideas.  If you are struggling to write about one event, move on to something else you might find easier.  Very few books are written from start to finish. 
  • Go with the flow.  If you ever start thinking about a narrative or a way of phrasing something, write it down as soon as it pops into your head.  Chances are if you don’t it will be quickly forgotten.
  • Talk to people about your ideas and get information from those that have been on your journey with you.
  • Read other autobiographies and copy styles of those you like.  You could even get creative and write a diary style book or a series of letters to various individuals.
  • Edit, edit, edit.  It can be dull, but do go over your writing regularly to amend.  It’s usually a good idea to leave a piece for a day and then come back to it with fresh eyes.  Others might be happy to help you edit too.

Self-publish

Writers looking to self-publish books for commercial gain will most likely use one of the big players in the market such as Kindle Direct Publishing and Barnes and Noble who will produce either e-books or print on demand copies, and provide platforms to sell and promote them.  In return they ask for a percentage of each sale in payment.

However, assuming that your autobiography is not going to be sold to the wider public, these services might not give you the best deal and alternative online services exist, many of them free, which specialise in various aspects of creating books for more personal use.  Canva and Edit provide free resources to design a book cover, for example. You will also find many reproduction companies on your high street keen to help you typeset and print books or, if your book is ’print ready’, you might want to consider companies specialising in short-run or on demand printing such as Undercover Print where one 42 page book can be printed for just over £60.

Hire a ghost writer

If the writing bit is not your thing and you have a bit of spare cash handy, there are also firms who will provide a ghost writer and handle the whole book creation process for you.  Companies like Life Story or Book of My Life offer packages starting from £1,900 for a concise version including time to interview you about your story.

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