Writing your life story can be a rewarding and meaningful project, but it is also a daunting and challenging one. The question arises, ‘How to Write Your Life Story?’

How do you capture the essence of your experiences, insights, and lessons learned in a way that engages and inspires others? How do you organize your material and structure your narrative? How do you balance honesty and creativity, facts and emotions, details and themes?

In this blog post, I will share how to write your life story, based on my own experience as a memoirist and a writing coach. Let’s know about how to write your life story.

Difference Between a Memoir and an Autobiography?

One of the most common misconceptions about memoirs is that they are simply autobiographies written by people who aren’t famous, but this couldn’t be further from the truth. 

While autobiographies typically chronicle a person’s entire life story from childhood to the present, memoirs are much more focused and are centered around a specific life event that has had a profound impact on the writer.

A good memoir is a beautifully crafted narrative that tells a story of adversity, growth, and self-discovery and is filled with insights and lessons learned that readers can apply to their own lives. 

It’s important to understand that a memoir is not simply a collection of personal anecdotes or memories, but rather a cohesive and coherent story that is built around a central theme or question.

To write a compelling memoir, it’s essential to approach the writing process as narrative non-fiction. This means that the story is grounded in reality and is based on true events, but it is written in a way that adheres to the conventions of fiction, such as plot, character development, and pacing. 

In a memoir, the people and events that are included are carefully chosen to support the book’s central message and are presented in a way that is both engaging and emotionally resonant.

One of the keys to writing a successful memoir is to focus on the universal themes and emotions that underlie the specific experiences that you are recounting. While your story may be unique to your own life, there is likely something in it that will resonate with readers on a deeper level. 

By tapping into these universal themes and emotions, you can create a powerful and relatable story that will connect with readers on a profound level.

Ultimately, writing a memoir is a deeply personal and transformative experience, and it requires a great deal of courage, honesty, and vulnerability. 

But if you approach the process with an open heart and a willingness to share your story with the world, you may find that your memoir has the power to inspire and uplift others in ways that you never imagined.

What is it called when you write a book about your life?

Writing a book about your life is called a memoir or an autobiography.

The difference is that a memoir has lessons and an overall theme or message tied to the stories while an autobiography is a chronological account of your life.

Related: How to Write a Book About Your Life

How to Write Your Life Story in 10 Simple Steps

So you’ve discovered you have something to share with the world…but what you don’t know is how the heck to make it happen.

Here are our top tips for writing your life story.

1. Journal and Free-write

Do you have a story to tell but don’t know where to begin? Writing your life story may seem daunting, but it can also be a rewarding and meaningful experience. 

By taking a few minutes each day to free write or journal about a significant memory, you can start building the foundation for your nonfiction narrative. 

Even if you don’t use this particular memory in your final story, the act of writing down memories can benefit you as a writer and help keep those memories fresh. And if you’re feeling stuck, there are plenty of nonfiction writing prompts available to help you get started. Remember, by sharing your unique experiences and insights, you have the power to inspire and uplift others in ways you never imagined. 

So why not take the first step today and start writing your life story?

2. Outline and organize

After you’ve written down a variety of memories—whether they’re part of an overall narrative or a collection of essays—they now need to be organized into a coherent story to write it.

Since you’re writing your life story, technically the plotline is already there; it just has to be written down and organized in a manner that will speak to your audience.

However, if you are the more organized type and not a “pantster” like other writers, outlining what memories you want to include in your life story may help get the writing juices flowing.

Not only can an outline help you get clear on the message and order you’ll write your book, but it can also help you form writing goals that will set up a writing habit.

These are two keys to actually finishing your book.

Other writers struggle with writing unless they have an outline or book template, even if it’s a book outline of their own life. It all depends on you, the writer.

3. Pick your genre

“Creative nonfiction has become the most popular genre in the literary and publishing communities.” – Lee Gutkind, What is Creative Nonfiction?

Several book genres fall under the nonfiction genre: memoirs, essay collections, autobiographies, motivational books, and more.

Since you are writing about your life, it might feel like you have to put it in the “memoir” genre, but that’s not always the case.

It might hurt your book sales to mislabel your book as a memoir when it’s more of a self-help in a specific category.

While this author does label this book as a memoir, it also fits in several other categories. These Amazing categories will help you

1) reach a wider audience and 

2) help you tell the story in a way that will speak to those readers.

4. Research

Regardless of how you begin writing your life story—with free writing or outlining—research can help you build on memories to create a fuller story and establish you as a credible writer.

Memories are fickle, and we don’t always remember things correctly, especially if we are writing about something that happened many years ago.

Researching for a book can seem like a daunting task. In fact, out of all the research you’ll end up doing, only a very small percentage will end up in your story. To find that small percentage, however, you need to do your research.

Here are some research tips when writing about your life:

  • List memories or facts you’re not 100% certain about
  • Ask family members or others close to you for details
  • Get quotes from those people if necessary
  • When writing and you come across something you need to research, simply make a note to research and keep writing so you can write faster

5. Identify characters and perspective

The people you have met in your life influenced you in some way, and as such, they will influence how you write your life story as well.

Here are some tips to organize these characters for your story:

  • Make a list of people, also known as “characters” in this case, who you want to include in your story
  • Write down their description: physical appearance, age, background,
  • Write down their relationship to you (and if you’re close or distant to them)
  • Check out this character bio template from Selfpublishing.com to help flesh these details out

This will assist you in describing them in your narrative through the rule of “show don’t tell“, that way readers can visualize them and understand how they affected your life personally.

The only thing you may have to alter is a character’s real name.

Changing names can protect a person’s true identity in their story. Unless you have permission to use someone’s true name, change it and include a disclaimer at the beginning of your story. 

Make a note in your character list of names you change, that way you can keep track of who’s who.

Also, just because this is your life story—so technically, it’s told from your point of view—doesn’t mean you can’t explore the perspectives of the other characters in your story.

Keeping other character’s point-of-view in mind will give your story more dimension, and will help you to avoid a one-sided, train-of-thought narrative.

6. Add speculation

Use “speculation” to fill in gaps in your life story. Not sure if one of your character’s motivations? Is your memory of the event a bit foggy? 

Using what you already know, combined with the research you’ve conducted, speculate to the best of your ability.

Here is an example of writing speculation:

“I am not sure why my parents chose to end their marriage after 15 years together. They were always private people, and after their brief announcement to me about their separation, neither of them spoke a word to me about it ever again.

Perhaps they were trying to spare me the heartache of the ordeal. I often wonder if my father’s time in the service made him distant from my mother; that was the case with me. Maybe my mother, like me, became lonely as a result of that.”

Words and phrases like “perhaps,” “maybe,” and “I wonder if” show your reader that you, the narrator, are speculating.

Try to find creative ways to speculate, as well. You are, in a sense, still telling a true story; you’re using what you know to create a hypothesis about something that is still a mystery to you.

If you were to claim this hypothesis was true without facts to back it up, you could end up in trouble.

7. Determine the setting

Readers want to know where your life story took place or the setting. Like fiction, you need to consider how the setting of this story affected you as a person.

Here are some questions to help you discover the setting of your book:

  • Where was this place?
  • What did it look like?
  • Did you enjoy living/visiting there?
  • Do you remember any smells from the area?
  • What was the culture like there?
  • Were you a spectator of that culture or immersed in it?
  • How did the setting contribute to your experience?
  • What mood did that setting elicit?

Details like these affect your life tremendously—maybe more than you realize—and therefore must be included in your narrative, just as they would be if this was a fictional story.

Not only that, but this helps paint a much clearer picture for your readers and creates a more entertaining experience.

8. Remember the dialogue

Even if you’re writing nonfiction, the dialogue is still crucial.

When you forget to write dialogue…the story can end up reading like a very boring textbook.

Dialogue is what gives the writing.

But that leaves the challenge of writing accurate dialogue. Unless you used a tape recorder or video to record a conversation, chances are you’re not going to recall previous conversations word-for-word.

Just write down what you remember to the best of your ability, and paraphrase if you must. If you are still on good terms with the person you’re speaking with within your memory, try contacting them to be sure that their memory of the conversation is similar to yours. 

You can even ask them to approve any written dialogue that’s in quotes if it’s not 100% accurate to what was said.

Write dialogue the same way it would be used in a fiction book and remember to use correct dialogue formatting and tags.

9. Prepare for negative pushback

Not all of us have sweet stories with cute pets. Sometimes our memories and experiences are on the dark side—for example, The Kiss by Kathryn Harrison.

This memoir focuses on the time in the author’s life when she had a sexual (and incestuous) relationship with her father. 

She received a huge amount of negative reactions to her story.

If you are going to write and publish a personal and scandalous true story about your life, steel yourself for these kinds of negative reactions, particularly from those in your life unhappy with you telling the story to begin with.

Something this is just a part of becoming an author.

Nonfiction writing that isn’t dark is still liable to receive negative feedback from those who appear in the story, even if their names are changed.

Some people may react simply because they were written in the story at all.

10. Commit to finishing your story

Your story can only get out into the world if you commit to not only finishing your first draft but publishing and marketing your life story.

Don’t just commit to your story, commit to yourself and to doing something you can be proud of.

Commit to something that will be here long after you’re gone, and write to yourself.

Final Words

In the tapestry of life, every thread has a story to tell. As you embark on the journey of writing your life story, remember that it is not just a chronicle of events, but a reflection of the essence that makes you unique. 

So, pick up the pen, open the blank pages, and let the ink flow. Your life story is a narrative only you can write, filled with triumphs, lessons, and the beautiful symphony of your experiences. Embrace the power of your words, for in sharing your story, you not only give voice to your journey but also inspire others to embrace the richness of their narratives. 

As you weave the tapestry of your existence through words, may you find clarity, healing, and a deep sense of connection with both yourself and those who will read the chapters of your life. 

Remember, your story matters, and it is never too late to start writing the next captivating chapter.