From your spoken words into a self-published life story

Are you better at writing your story – or telling it?

We all have a story to tell. It might be about our childhood, a memory of one event or person, or our whole life so far. It might be a description of how we feel and think and dream, or memories of the series of events that formed our world view.

Most people tell anecdotes as a natural part of their everyday lives and are comfortable telling these stories verbally. But most people are not experienced writers and don’t feel confident enough to write their stories down – or they try to write them, but their writing style seems awkward or clunky. Transferring their thoughts into written words just doesn’t come naturally to them.

That’s where a life story writer can help.

Why hire a life stories writer to document your stories?

Some life stories writers specialise in writing life stories that are based mainly on the client’s verbal stories, plus a small amount of fact-checking research. The life stories writer interviews the client, documents the stories, does the necessary rewriting and editing, and produces a life story that is clear and easy-to-read, that reflects the client’s own voice and storytelling style.

Over the years, people have asked me to document their stories and produce their life story for them, as an edited manuscript (MS) or self-published book, for the following reasons.

  • They want their mum, dad or grandparent’s story written into a book of their life story, so that the family can preserve those stories for current and future generations. Because their mum, dad or grandparent are elderly and would never get around to writing those stories down, they want to hire a life stories writer to document those verbal stories and turn them into a MS/book.
  • They want to tell their own story verbally because they (a) feel they are far better at talking than writing, (b) they do not feel competent using a computer and do not want to or cannot learn to use a computer, or (c) their writing skills are very limited due to a gap in their education and they do not wish to improve their writing skills. They want to hire a life stories writer to document their verbal stories and turn them into an MS/book.
  • They want to tell their own story verbally because they are elderly, disabled or neurodivergent. While capable of telling their stories verbally, their fatigue or disability makes it very difficult for them to write their story down or use a computer, themselves. They want to hire a life stories writer to work with them collaboratively to coach them in storytelling, to document and edit their verbal stories in a collaborative way, and to turn their stories into an MS/book.

What to expect from a life stories writer who is documenting your verbal stories

If you hire a life stories writer who is a full member of Life Stories Australia to  transform your verbal storytelling (spoken stories) into a book, here is what to expect.

  • A quote, project plan and contract that outlines the life story writer’s tasks, their responsibilities and yours, liability limitations, copyright ownership, etc. (Make sure you read the terms and conditions, and if you have any questions, telephone or email them.)
  • If you would like audio recordings of the storytelling sessions, make sure you request this at the outset, as this will determine the life story documenter’s approach and quote.
  • If you would like the life story writer to type and edit your life story then also produce a designed and printed self-published book of your life story, make sure you request this at the outset, as this will determine the life story documenter’s approach and quote.
  • A number of consultations with the life stories writer where they ask you questions and prompt you for information, while allowing you to decide which stories you want to tell and not tell. (While we will make suggestions about this, it is your book, not ours.) Your stories may be either recorded on audio or scribed/typed without a recording.
  • The life stories writer will edit/rewrite/transform the transcripts of your storytelling consultations into a structured life story or memoir. How many writing/editing hours this takes will depend on the number of words or stories, how clearly you told the stories, and the complexity of the stories/whole life story as a whole.
  • If you have photos or other images for your book, the life stories writer may be able to do the “tagging” of those images in the Word document MS, and can write the captions in collaboration with you. (This will be necessary if the MS is going to be designed.)
  • The end result of the life stories writing process will be a well-written MS of a memoir or life story, in Word format, that is structurally sound, engaging, and well-suited to your target audience. If you have requested the life stories writer to give you the audio recordings of all sessions as part of the service, those will also be provided to you.
  • If you then want your life story turned into a self-published book:
    • if the life stories writer also offers self-publishing services they can produce your book, including copy editing, design, printing and delivery of your box/es of books into your hands.
    • if the life stories writer does not offer self-publishing services, they can refer you to a suitable self-publishing service provider.

More information

You can see the profiles of all Life Stories Australia members, here.

Some people want to write their own memoir and, at the same time, improve their writing and development as a writer. An editor or writing coach who specialises in memoir can help them do this. See more information about Sally-Anne’s writer coaching and editing services, here.