ONE: Writing your story is not as daunting a task as it might seem. Too often we make things hard for ourselves by trying to do things perfectly. That isn’t necessary. When writing your story for your family, the most important thing is to make it full of interesting facts and information about your life. You may not remember what year you and your best friend pulled a prank on her brother, but the story isn’t dependent on the date. If you kept a diary or journal at different times in your life, you may find dates and place names relating to your story, but they aren’t necessary. You can tell stories without dates by saying things similar to the following:
One summer, when I was a teenager, my best friend and I pulled a hilarious prank on her brother. (follow with the story)
One Christmas eve, when I was quite young, I thought I heard Santa on the roof. (follow with the story)
One summer, when I was in junior high school, my parents rented a camp on a pretty lake somewhere in New Hampshire. We had some great adventures that summer that I want to share with you. (follow with the story)
Exact details are not necessary to tell a fun story about yourself. Don’t leave something special out of your book because you are unsure of a date or a name. Simply say something like, “I don’t remember the year, but I was still in grammar school when it happened. (follow with the story)
TWO: Don’t try and write your life in the order of events. Write about people, experiences, trips, and important life events as you think of them. This is why it is helpful to have a notebook handy to jot things down as you remember them. You can put all your notes, memories, and stories into the order you choose later on in the process. If you are using a computer for your notes, make a main folder to hold everything and individual folders for various topics, such as holiday celebrations, school days, birthdays, best friends, hobbies, vacations, and more. This will make it easy to assemble our book quickly when you are ready to put it in its final form.
THREE: Be sure you are writing as YOU and not as an observer. A women sent me a bit from the book she was writing for her children and grandchildren for a critique. I found in many instances she wrote as an observer. When she tells about a school field-trip that turned into quite an adventure when a bear showed up at their picnic, she wrote it like a news story. She related the facts, but nothing about her personally until the last sentence when she said, “I was one of the kids on the field-trip.” I encouraged her to write it differently and include her emotions and feelings as a participant in the story. This time the story became exciting. She gave me her permission to include a bit of this story. One sentence read, “My heart was pounding and I thought I would pee my pants. We were all trying to be quiet and not move. Suddenly our teacher grabbed her berry pail and started banging on it and told us to do the same with ours. When we were all banging the buckets, that old bear took off running! When it was all over, we laughed and cried and laughed some more. Don’t tell anyone, but your old granny did pee her pants that day, but I wasn’t the only one!” It’s easy to see how this little story is far more exiting and interesting than the original news report style. Plus, the reader now knows Granny’s little secret.
Future generations want to know YOU, not just about you. Put lots of your personality into the stories. Say what makes you sad, mad, happy, and silly. Don’t just write a book about you… remember, YOU are the book!