Daily Archives: September 14, 2017

Safe from Irma, and Writing Your Own Story

After being battered for a week with dire predictions of what Hurricane Irma MIGHT do to Charleston, it was a little anti-climactic to experience it here in Mount Pleasant and realize it was NO BIG DEAL.

Yes, I know downtown Charleston flooded horrendously (but Charleston has very low roads and tends to flood even in a bad thunderstorm). And I know there were cyclones all over Charleston County–but not one came near me, safe and snug in my apartment on Park West Boulevard.

I did lose Internet service and my office phone (which is voice-over-Internet and goes out whenever the IP goes out). That lasted all of five minutes. Otherwise, apart from heavy rain and winds, a few downed tree limbs and some debris, everything was fine.

On Tuesday, I woke up to brilliant sunshine. (It was just like your child, when he knows he’s been bad; he’s suddenly angelic to make up for it.)

I do sympathize with the tough conditions in Florida, but from everything I hear, it could have been so much worse than it was. It’s bad, but not nearly as bad as they thought it would be.

And here we are, in a new day.

This morning I spoke in front of my weekly networking group. The topic was “Writing Your Own Story”, which is something I talk about often with people who meet me, find out I’m an author and immediately exclaim, “Oh, I’ve got a great story for you to write!” And they insist it would be ‘a bestseller’ if only I’d just write it down for them, ‘because I’m not a writer’.

I have news for you. In today’s world of DIY, you don’t necessarily need a writer at all.

YOU can write your own story.

Here’s a brief recap of what I said this morning:

  1. If you truly think you have a story worth telling, sit with a sympathetic friend (even if he/she has already heard all your stories) and ask if you can tape yourself telling her the story.
  2. Get a small inexpensive tape recorder, sit with your friend and TURN IT ON. Then tell the story to your friend as clearly and enthusiastically as you possibly can. TELLING the story out loud, for non-writers, is a great way to get it out of your system. If you try to write it on your computer, you might freeze up and get discouraged, or think you need fancy language to convey it. Fancy language gets left at the door these days; if you can write like you talk, you can tell any story.
  3.  Transcribe the tape afterward, so you can READ what you just said. Chances are, the story will sound pretty good to you as you read it.
  4. Decide whether this is the story of your ENTIRE life or only a small PIECE  of it. If it’s the story of your life, beginning to end, BEGIN IT AT THE BEGINNING, with your birth, growing up, etc.

HOWEVER… the story you want to tell may NOT be the entire story of your life. It may be about only a few years, or one incident. In that case, you can organize your story differently. You can tell it in chapters, EACH chapter about part of the incident, OR about various OTHER incidents in your life.

This is very freeing, in a lot of ways. I’ve always felt if I ever wrote my life story, I’d do it this way–talking about various ASPECTS of my life and what I learned from them, as separate stories I could string together as separate chapters. I think it would still be interesting, but less tedious than my trying to wade through my entire 60 years here on earth. Let’s face it, for long periods of time I haven’t done anything all that exciting. No reason for the reader to deal with that. Why not read the best parts? (A great example of this is the book Sheila Haley wrote some years ago, about life with her author husband, Arthur Haley. It’s called “I Married a Bestseller”, and it’s great fun. She talks about helping with book research, moving multiple times and even dealing with his extramarital affairs.) The point is, she could have written a beginning-to-end story but chose not to. She organized the book into chapters about various aspects of her life, and told them very entertainingly. It’s still a valid way to tell your story.

5.  Continue to sit with sympathetic friends (one or more) until you’ve talked the entire length of what you want to tell into that tape recorder, and transcribe it all.

6. Organize it into relevant chapters.

7. Send it to a good editor for a developmental edit. You can find a list of good, ethical editors at the website Editors and Predators. ASK for his/her advice and LISTEN to it. They can tell you whether the story is on track or if it needs connecting sections, and how to do that.

8. When you have the story edited and you think it’s ready, you can decide whether or not it’s worth publishing, or simply copying and binding as gifts for your family and friends.

If you do decide to publish it, the single best place for print-on-demand (today’s self-publishing) is http://www.createspace.com, which is the best of the POD publishers. For just a few hundred dollars, they’ll format and typeset your finished book, and you can get it copy-edited (do this if you have any issues with spelling, punctuation and usage) and have a beautiful book cover done there as well. And once you’ve given the final go-ahead, they’ll distribute it to Amazon, Barnes&Noble.com and many other online bookstores, around the world.

9. If you choose (and you should do this), have it done as a Kindle version as well. More and more people are reading books on their phones and tablets; give them that option with yours. And you can go to Audible.com or other sites if you want an audio book version (something which, again, is becoming more and more prevalent).  As the author, you can choose which actor reads your book, which is a thrilling experience. (An author friend of mine chose an Irish actor to read her romantic thrillers–and since her hero was Irish, it was a double pleasure.)

Go to http://www.kdp.com for Kindle Direct Publishing; they’ll format and typeset the book into their proprietary version. And because of their symbiotic relationship with Amazon, it’ll go up on the mega-giant’s site almost immediately, once you give the final approval.

Does this work? I can’t tell you your book will be a giant bestseller, but when I was nine, and long before POD publishing OR Kindle, I received a paperback copy of KAREN by Marie Killilea as a birthday present. It’s the very moving story of her daughter, who was diagnosed in the 1940’s with cerebral palsy and struggled to learn to walk, write and lead a productive life. I’ve re-read it at least every six months since then, and that was more than 50 years ago. The book won all kinds of prizes and tons of acclaim, and is still one of my favorites.

I can’t promise you’ll write KAREN, but I do promise if you have a family story that’s inside you, this is a way–finally–to get it out, whether as a gift to your family or as a gift to the world.

Best of luck with your story–and keep me posted on your progress!