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Writing Books/Writing my life: Where do I start?

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Question
I have all kinds of written material in journals and I plan to put it all together and make it into a book, like a memoir.... I'm only 28 but I've had a LONG life... where do I start? I don't necessarily want to go from age 1 to age 28... I want to skip around and make it more interesting than that... how do I get just the right start for the book?

Answer
Hello Jennie:

Many people want to write and have some ideas they like, but they don’t know how to get started. The problem is one of organization.

Getting started involves bringing this material under control and putting it into tangible form in a way that suits your purposes. By “suits your purposes” I mean it guides and supports your writing and ensures you don’t wander off the path and fall into the abyss.

First, you must decide what you will do with this book once it is finished. If you just want to write it and have fun with it but not necessarily to publish it, that's fine. But if you want to publish, and particularly if you want your book to have depth and scope, you need a subject. Subjects (sometimes called "themes") are the big issues of life: love, hate, war, jealousy, education, liberty, etc.  It would be a good idea to decide on a subject before you proceed.

Once you have your subject, you need to decide on a premise. The premise is the one big thing your life has taught you about your subject, a conviction of yours you want to impress upon your readers about the subject. It should be expressed in one sentence: "The most important thing in life is love," or “Jealousy poisons the body as well as the mind,” etc. Whether it’s the absolute truth or not doesn’t matter, rather it will reflect your beliefs on the subject. The premise should be expressed and supported by the events of the story to lead to a conclusion. This has to be something you are passionate about, for only passion can carry you through to the end. This is the most important part of your book, so choose carefully.

Once you have your premise, get some 3x5 cards and on each, write a few sentences around a story event that supports it, and how. If  nothing about your birth contributes to your premise, leave it out. Keep going until you feel you have enough events to fill a book. Sort out the most important ones and list them in the order they will happen in the book. This is your outline. The rest of the cards can be fitted in any way that appeals to you.

When you are finished organizing your material, you are ready to write your first draft. If you have other questions, don't hesitate to come back.

I hope this helps. If it does, a nice rating would be greatly appreciated. I am proud of my high score over 850 questions.

And good luck with your writing!  

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Susan Rand

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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 http://pygmypress.com, 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.

Experience

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.

Education/Credentials
BA degree in Written Communication

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