In the past twenty years, technology has unleashed something of a revolution on us, enabling you and I — the average citizen — to publish, broadcast and create other online content from the comfort of our own homes (or local cafe houses).
The rise in authors self-publishing electronically or through methods such as Print on Demand has opened up possibilities that were previously available only to those fortunate to secure a book deal or those who chose to write for a smaller audience (private publications).
Fiction. Non-fiction. Autobiographies. Memoirs. Choices. Everyone has a book in them, so the popular saying goes.
How does one create a book using tools now available to the general public?
In this article, I deal with autobiographies or memoirs. One of the most common problems aspiring writers encounter when writing about their lives centres around structure.
A person writes about their first house. Their family. Their neighbourhood. Their first school. Religion, maybe. Politics.
Where do they begin? What should they focus on? How does a person describe their early years without moving from one topic to the next? Novelists encounter the same type of problem. And so do academic writers.
The key, I believe, lies in choosing a central theme (a genre, almost), followed by a small numbers of other themes, and building the narrative around those themes.
Perhaps the events can move forward chronologically through keeping to a strict plan and exploring the selected themes, chapter by chapter?
The writer might wish to consider a couple of questions as they plan and write. What is the purpose of the book? What message does one wish to convey?
Working along these lines, however, may lead to writing dilemmas – particularly, when the writer has to chose between including some scenes and cutting others (usually their favourites).
This happens because writing develops and matures, and sometimes a once-prized writing sample no longer has a place in the overall work (in the same way that friendships change over a period of time, some fizzle out, others develop).
Novelists often open with scenes of immediacy, either dealing with an event in a character’s past or pointing towards a later event in the story. A writer can employ the same technique with an autobiography.
Consider use of the Point of View (POV). A first person narrative opens up a number of possibilities. The person looking back over their life. The person narrating events as though the events are occurring in the present. A person presenting material, then offering thoughts and opinions on the matters outlined.
Alternatively, the writer could experiment with a second person narrative. Or alternate, using different techniques to emphasise different emotional states.
Additionally, a writer must decide on exactly how much time (in terms of word count) to spend on each part of their life.
If the story focuses on a major event in adulthood, it would make sense to devote a sizeable part of the story to that event. Otherwise, they might chose to devote equal time to the various parts of life.
Whatever the case, technology and the internet have opened up opportunities for the average citizen to tell their story – an opportunity worth considering.
Just a few of my thoughts.