Three crucial steps to take before you write your life story

It can be daunting trying to come up with a story—the idea of sifting through files, photos, letters, and memorabilia, organising these into a coherent narrative, and making it appealing to an audience can be overwhelming.

However, writing a book is also one of the most rewarding things you could do. Nothing worth having comes easy, as the truism goes, and you can apply this to writing. Before you write your life story here are a few tips to ensure your success.

Prepare by organising your family archive

Come up with an inventory of your references and the areas where you can find these. What family documents do you need, and where could you find these items? You do not need to have all your references in one room (though it’s great if you do) but knowing where they are certainly makes the research and pre-writing phase faster.

Photos and journals can help you remember events that you could write into your memoir. When gathering references, include genealogy papers, letters and other items for fact-checking. /g it will help things run more smoothly if you do this before you write your life story.

Come up with a life timeline

People’s memories are not linear. We think in puddles; scents, colours and even music stimulates our reminisces. Because of this, some people believe that writing should be similarly free and unrestrained. A chronological outline, though, is the best thing you could do to ensure that you write a coherent narrative.

You can convey spontaneity and vitality in your text without sacrificing order, and a life timeline will allow you to do that. Before you write your life story, write down your major life milestones—employment, relocations, having children and others—and the years where these happen. You can even group these events in terms of life stage; childhood, teen years, college and so on.

Focus your writing on a couple of themes

If there is a specific period that you want to cover, like army experience or a stint working overseas, you do not need to think so much about your theme. However, some life stories need a little more deliberation in this area. If you believe that you’re an “ordinary” person, you might want to spend a few minutes thinking of your story’s theme.

Ask yourself about the most important decisions you have made, and the instances where you displayed resilience. What did you learn, and what was the effect on your life afterwards?

You can also think of your best days, your most challenging ones and what makes you remember these moments. Your career or vocation could also have recurring patterns that are worth examining through writing. You might also want to reflect on values you want to pass on, and if your life story has instances where you or the people around you show these.


Writing a memoir takes a lot of time and effort, and it can be challenging trying to deliver a captivating narrative out of bits and pieces of memory. You’ll have a smoother time writing your life story if you follow our tips, and you’ll get to share your memories and enjoy reminiscing for many years.

At Life Stories Australia our members strive to help everyone unearth their precious moments and make them shine. We can help you turn your beautiful memories into a book, ready to be handed down from one generation to the next. Get in touch with us today for more information.

Gabriella Kelly-Davies

Founder, Share your life story

Vice-President Life Stories Australia