Writing Your Own Life Story

life story

Even if you’re not a writer by trade, it doesn’t mean you can’t become an author. You’ve got a story born from your life and business experience. Aren’t you ready to share your life story with the world?

As a nonfiction book coach, it is my calling and my honor to help a great many people — including business and community leaders — transform their lives and business experiences into stories that move people to action. I believe the wisdom and power to create real change lives in the minds and experiences of leaders, community builders, and everyday people all over the world.

My role is to connect people who have solutions for the world’s problems with the people who need those answers through books that make an impact – a book that will give them a broader platform to share those ideas.

It begins with your story

Your story deserves to be told – and I’d argue it’s your responsibility to tell it. Most aspiring authors don’t know how to get started on their book and feel overwhelmed before they even begin. Below are some tips to help you on your way to sharing your truth.

Develop a concept

A memoir, captures a period of time or a set of events in your life, rather than cataloging your experience from cradle to grave — that’s an autobiography or biography. In order for your memoir to appeal to an audience beyond your friends and family, you must develop a solid concept that bridges the gap between your life and that of your reader.

Publisher Sharlene Martin once said, “[You] need a solid concept for [a memoir] that invites the reader’s concerns into the experience of reading it, instead of just saying, ‘Let me tell you all about wonderful me.’” Consider the elements of your story that are universal and find ways to write them so you invite your reader to imagine and consider their own life through the lens of your circumstances.

Make it memorable

You can make your nonfiction book as memorable as its fictional counterparts by using sensory language – language that conveys how you felt, what you saw, heard, smelled, and tasted during the scenes you present. I encourage my writers to close their eyes when they write a pivotal scene to take themselves back to the place, the time, and the emotion of the moment.

Once you’ve transported yourself back to that moment, open your eyes and write your scene. When you’ve gotten it down on the page, go back and look for ways to vary your language to make it richer and more interesting. Break out your thesaurus if that helps!

Your story is exceptional

What are you waiting for? What better time is there to write a book about your own life story than now? Someone out there needs your message. When you share what you know and what you’ve learned, you are part of the solution. Your story is exceptional — don’t keep it to yourself!

I had the great honor of speaking at an Arête – HPA event. Arête is a truly exceptional group of leaders who have exceptional stories to tell. In this presentation, I talk about how to go about designing your exceptional story:

Here’s the thing: people who write nonfiction books very often aren’t writers. You’ve lived through something, you’ve learned something, discovered something, or developed something, and you’re busy living your life. You’re out accomplishing things. You don’t need to learn the publishing industry or take writing classes to write your book. You simply need to get your message out of your head and out into the world.

You may not be a writer, but that doesn’t mean you can’t become an author. You can do anything you want to do if you get the proper help. Listen to what David. J.P. Fisher, author, business leader and entrepreneur had to say after he wrote his first book, Networking in the 21st Century: Why Your Network Sucks and What to Do About It.

“Writing the first book was definitely a big hurdle, but I found that it was like running a marathon. Once you do one, you look back and want to do it again. I’ve published three shorter books in the ten months after publishing my first book, and there are more on the way. It’s definitely helped build my professional credibility and stature as an expert in my field.”

What do you have to lose? When will there ever be a better moment than now?


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Related Posts
Who Am I To Write a Memoir?
Four things to decide before you write your memoir
Keep the “ME” in your MEmoir
Writing a Memoir? Avoid These Mistakes.
Sensory Language IS The Detail In Your Writing



  1. Stringing sentences together does not make a writer. They might think this and then the internet is overwhelming by these people who have been told to ‘believe in themselves’ have a ‘compelling story/message’ and what does one get? Social media gestated self interests that is not unique. To do that one needs perspective. Nuanced vision. Introspection. Multiple points of view of the non-fiction subject. Research that does not end at Wikipedia. Opinion formed by knowledge not just assembled information. Plus a valid view: a Weltanschaung. As backdrop, depth creating the scene. Then localized through the Zeitgeist which is what matters most because it comes from within. This is the real you. Plus the ability to go through several Gestalt-switches. Otherwise it will be one long rant. Or an academic dirge. As well as disciplined writing. Classes help if the teacher is motivated. Essay writing is good way to begin this process for a later book. It helped me. By default. One learns how to be an editor in the process as well.

  2. Thank you, Nancy, for a very insightful, informative and educational step into my life. Having been a writer since Richard Nixon became President, and now, writing my autobiography, your suggestion to utilize my senses and emotions to personalize my story whereby the reader will be emotional affected, is very helpful. I’m writing my autobiography for my grandkids, so that they can get a “taste” of history of that part of my life all of them missed out on, due to tragic circumstances. So, thanks again, Nancy! Take care and keep up your good work!

    Best Regards,
    Don Vasicek

  3. So interesting to me coming across this today, after much brainstorming and after writing a childrens book, “yet to be released” I have always felt deep inside that I have a paramount message to get out. I just took a writing aptitude “test” and wrote about myself, sharing childhood traumas that I revisited and began a forgiving and healing of that innocence lost within myself. With a sense of peace and calm with that forgiveness in myself, it seems a story that with evolution may be exactly what was mentioned in the video above. Shedding a guiding light of hope and creating value for others as well as myself.

    So that is why so interesting to me at this very moment.

  4. I have finished my project; still in the final process of editing. I don’t fit all the qualifications you speak, I play centerfield; an autobiography of a -Successful Loser.
    I have a desire to help others, not by; don’t do this, but being an example to those who are trapped by hidden secrets, to give them the courage to accept their past for all its foibles and get on with life, we are free, and it’s an interesting place to be.
    I reach out because of what you said, plus the timing, and I woke up this morning with an urge to reread your piece then noticed the video.
    Thank you for inspiring.

  5. Hi, Nancy…
    I’m also a non-fiction book coach, and agree with most of what you write, as it resonates with my own experience with my clients and students.
    Thanks for sharing your expertise and encouraging folks to consider their responsibility to tell their stories: it’s a message I often share with people who come to me.
    PS – I tried your link in your bio to Bookarma and got an error message – I found the correct link, but you might want to fix it.

  6. Dear Nancy, I am a British born Briton from Britain who has lived outside the country of my birth for 52 years, 49 years in 4 African countries and the last 3 in France. I have been retired 16 years but began writing technical articles 7 years ago. More than 200 articles later I have not yet completed a book. At the end of January I was asked by the editor of a glossy technical magazine with a specialist ie small audience to write an article on a scientist and engineer who was a genius. I had written about him twice before and I intended incorporating that material with an update in the article. Returning to the original references I found a new story in the same sources which required me to start again from scratch. Whilst writing his story, some 7500 words, 21 Illustrations on 22 pages, I found some remarkable similarities of his life to my own and also some big differences for example I am not a genius. I made a running list of bullet points to record what I might write in an autobiographical sense which I am continuing to do daily as I am reminded of the opportunities, setbacks, and triumphs in my 75 years on the planet. This has already run to 9 pages and I am struck by how interesting mine is compared to the genius. You will have guessed by now that I am an engineer (boring) and what I have discovered is that writing things about which I am completely familiar comes much more easily than a greenfield subject. What could be more familiar than my own story. But how to present it? The most difficult time of my life was my University period with parental problems involving money, health, careers and wellbeing. I overcame them with very little help and major change was the only sensible option. Your video crystallised my thoughts on the purpose, the target audience and the structure. My title says it all “Engineer in paradise”, the target global audience to be helped are adolescents considering an engineering career to engineering graduates who are seeking a job. The theme of the structure is that nothing is certain but that things will change. Life is a continual cascade of before, change and aftermath, not to be feared but recognised and leveraged to your advantage, and to have fun doing it. The value added to society is that recognition of the worth and status of engineers is enhanced, for without them nothing works.

  7. I am inspired by your overall message. I have been writing short stories and taking classes and workshops and have learned a great deal. I am now attempting to put together a short-story collection into a memoir format. Do you have any guidelines or comments on the best way to do this?

  8. I just put my short story for sale on Amazon. I need someone to edit it and help promote it. I’m only looking for someone who believes, as I do, the story can be a best seller. THE ANSWERED PRAYER is the name and I’m the author, T C Thomas.
    It needs some work. I need straight answers and prices.

  9. Thank you Nancy!! Your article about Writing Your Own Story put me over the top. I just saw it through the BookBaby newsletter (I’m secretly in Love With Steve Spatz…don’t tell him). I’m THE one you were speaking to in this article…thanks Nancy! I needed that led light (flash light to all you baby boomers) guidance to see my way through to the dark corridors of my mind that told me ‘…no one would be interested in what I have to say about my life and the lessons learned along the way”. Your article validated my project; and encouraged me to move beyond my stalled motivation and begin (again) to write about “me”, “myself” and “I” in a context of ‘common human threads’.

  10. Hi Nancy, I wanted to call my book I “I Kept My Promise” but that’s been taken I understand so I am calling it” A New Mechanism for Breast Cancer/I Kept My Promise. My story begins in March 1980. I don’t remember the exact date or day of the week but I do remember exactly what I had for dinner. A seafood crepe and a glass of white wine. It was late in the evening and the restaurant was empty as I paid my bill and walked back to the hospital. I crossed the street and headed back to the palliative care unit of North York General Hospital. I had spent the previous night there on a gurney beside my dear wife Glenna who was in the late stages of breast cancer and not expected to live much longer’
    As I walked down the hallway Bonny the private duty nurse I had hired walked towards me. “It’s over Barry “she said and gave me a hug. I was very grateful for that. I needed it It had been a long painful four-year journey and I was pretty exhausted. That small gesture was very comforting.
    I went into Glenna’s room and pulled the sheet down and kissed her gently on her bald head that was completely covered in tumours. I couldn’t cry because there were no tears left. We had shed them together. Then I made her a promise out loud. I said Glenna I swear to you on my word of honour that I will spend the rest of my life for however long the Good Lord grants me that to try my best to figure out the mechanism of a disease that would take the life of an otherwise healthy young woman. She was 31.
    29 years later in March 2009, I flew to Paris and then drove south to Aix-en-Provence to pay my respects (Glenna was a French teacher and a student at the university there) and then headed north to St Gallen Switzerland to give my paper at the 11th International Conference of Primary Therapy of Early Breast Cancer. My new mechanism for the disease was well received by the 3000 specialists in attendance. I kept my promise. I continue to do so.

  11. Beautiful and inspiring. I have longed to write a non fiction novel about my dad. It’s been trapped in my brain for about 10 years now. I would love to start and complete this story by the end of the year. My problem is, i don’t know how to employ these sensory description that gives taste and colour to a non fiction novel.

    Could you please guide me as i plot etc. Thanks once more.

  12. this text really helped me with my writing but i would like an example of a non fiction text about someone using these strategies they told in this text.


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