How to Start Writing the Story of Your Life

A friend who soon plans to write her first book asked me where to start.

Posting what I shared with her with hopes that you may find some value in it.

Write an outline. It’s ok if it is not bulleted. 

Just 1-2 lines depicting each topic that you want to talk about. 

It is good to look at it through the lens of stories and memories. So you can start with 1 page for each year of your life and then write about memories, experiences, lessons, pain, happiness, people, anything that is on top of mind. 

With this, you’ll get a base to start from.

When you write this outline you’ll feel the urge to write more about some points. Hold that urge and just do 1 word or 1 sentence for each in the beginning. Go through all the years quickly. 

Close that outline. Then list phases. Childhood, growing up, teens, school, crush, study, college, friends, theatre, poetry, job, marriage, business, art, fitness.

Then go through each of the phases similar to how you did for each year of your life. 1 page, 1 phase.

After you have a page each for all years of your life, and a page each for all important phases. Revisit all and underline 10-20 stories that you want to talk about first. And go from there. 

When you write to create this expanded outline, write without editing as if you are baring your soul to yourself. 

From there think of the kind of book you want to do. 

This is not the only way to start writing your book but a good way to do it while finding yourself and also to experience the catharsis of sorts 🙂 

You can use stories even when writing a self-help book. Because with stories you can tell your readers: Here is what I did, you can also try because it worked for me. Who knows it will work for you. And this is what (your story about that change) made me do it or made this change possible.

You can start with a story and then go into a lesson much like how Stephen King did it in “On writing”. Part 1 of the book, he shares the story of becoming a writer, his struggles and triumphs, and then in part 2, he talks about craft and tools to help others. 

You can go back and forth between ideas and they will be crystallized once you start putting them out. Once you have put enough words on paper in terms of the outline, the book will write itself.