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I am writing about my life, which has been very unusual because of the number and variety of tragedies I experienced. I am having trouble deciding  wether my first book should encompass all that has happened to me or wether I should just write a few chapters. I feel that not writing the whole story gives me a chance to go more into detail and continue in future Books. What do you think? I also worry about not writing another sobstory, I want the book to be like my life, troubled but inspirational, I want to have humor as well as honesty. Any tips on how to put this together? Should I include a lot of dialogue?  

Hello Audrey:

I assume that in saying "I am having trouble deciding wether my first book should encompass all that has happened to me or wether I should just write a few chapters," you mean you should include just a few events.

You have asked some questions that I simply cannot answer. How long your book should be, how much detail you should go into, whether it turns out "troubled but inspirational," or just another "sobstory," whether it includes humor and honesty, how much dialogue to include - these things are all up to you: it is the task of the writer to make these decisions for herself. I can help you reach these decisions but that will require more questions and answers.

There is much planning to be done before you can start writing. How you will "put this together" is a question I couldn't answer in less than a shelf full of books.  

The first thing you must do is distill from your material a premise. A premise is a one-sentence statement of what your book is "about." It is the one most important lesson your life has taught you. Some examples: "It always pays to tell the truth." "Love and plenty of money equals a good marriage." It should be universal (applying to all people)- a generalization, in other words, and you must believe in it strongly, indeed, be passionate about it, convinced that the world needs to know this.

Once you have your premise, you can more easily choose those events that support it. Leave out the rest. If there are only two or three, you probably have the wrong premise.

When that is done, come back and we'll tackle the rest.

I hope this helps. If it does, a nice rating would be greatly appreciated. I am proud of my high score over 600 questions.

And good luck with your writing!

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Susan Rand


I can answer questions about the elements of fiction and non-fiction writing: how to get started, writing techniques, re-writing, etc. I will NOT write for you, do critiques except from my website at, or give you ideas. I will not answer home-or-schoolwork questions in any category. If English is your second language, please say so, and I will make an exception. Please submit no more than one or two questions at once, as I tend to go into detail in my answers.


I wrote my first book in 1957 and have been writing and studying writing since. I have a BA in Written Communications, and have taught writing both privately and through adult education for 15 years. Have also edited (fiction books) for an online publisher and edited/wrote more than 100 articles for a teen sex education site. Currently writing web content and mentoring beginning writers.

BA degree in Written Communication

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