Friday Conversations With A Self-Publishing Writer 5/16/14


When working with a neighbor recently, trying to find a different way to write his memoirs, we sat in his comfortable dining room with old photos and memorabilia laid out in front of us.  I brought the coffee that day and the pause in our conversation gave us both a moment to think.  Then he said the most amazing thing:  “I bet that old tree out there could write this book better than I can.”  The fact that he just stated simmered in me for a minute or two; then I turned the page of my yellow tablet and we began again.

Did you plant that tree, or was it already here when you moved in?  “Oh, I planted it the very same week we finished unpacking.  That was 56 years ago.”  And so we began, the memorable pieces of his life following the growth rings of that that old tree.  “The Tree Nursery people told me it was a fast growing, hardy tree,” he continued.  “Just two years into its growth—the year our first child was born—there was a very heavy, wet, deep snow storm.  The branches were just leafing out, so the snow weighed them down; seemed like every time I changed a diaper, I also ran outside to knock the snow off that tree.  It had to be protected, too.”

EVERY individual has a unique and wonderful story to tell, and finding the right platform (the right storyline) to help them develop it is an important part of a ghostwriter’s job.  Here are a few of the useful “hooks,” I’ve found over the years.

  • “Mom! What’s for lunch?” If the memoir writer has mentioned different restaurants or types of food multiple times during your conversations, consider triggering his “life’s memories” by the meals he enjoyed: family gatherings (turkey and gravy), birthdays (chocolate cake with extra frosting), special snacks after school (cookies and milk).
  • “I just got a new IPad! Isn’t it great!” This memoir writer is technologically savvy. That tells me there is a tech-history in her life. Asking about the first radio she had, or the first TV she watched is fertile territory for triggering life-memories around each of those inventions, and so grows the story.
  • “Is that an autographed photo of President Regan?” If your ghostwriting client has a lot of photos displayed, look for a hidden theme. Of course, you’ll see the obvious family photos—those cherished family members are the reason this lady wants to write her memoirs. However, if there are several patriotic photos in plain view, talking about those can open some surprising doors.
  • “Where did all those blue ribbons come from?” Ah, this person holds a whole lot of memories about how those ribbons were won. The process of winning them didn’t just happen. The people, places, events surrounding each one will bring out an excellent framework for building this unique person’s life story.

There is great joy in working with folks who want to share their memories and pass their unique legacy forward.  THEN, when all the stories are in place, there is a special joy in seeing it IN PRINT.  I always share my experiences of self-publishing with my clients.  Even if they want only a few books (for children, grandchildren, great grandchildren), the print-on-demand self-publishing arena is a wonderful opportunity to have their memoirs printed in a beautiful format that becomes a treasured keepsake.  So it is that I encourage everyone:  “Don’t just think about writing your memoir, DO IT!”

Royalene ABOUT ROYALENE DOYLE: Royalene Doyle is a Ghostwriter with Outskirts Press, bringing more than 35 years of writing experience to authors who need “just a little assistance” with completing their writing projects. She has worked with both experienced and fledgling writers helping complete projects in multiple genres. When a writer brings the passion they have for their work and combines it with Royalene’s passion to see the finished project in print, books are published and the writer’s legacy is passed forward.

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