Writing a life story - Memory Lane Books

Many of us regret not knowing more about our parents and grandparents. Photographs are fine while they’re still around to explain who’s who, but will a dusty album mean anything to future generations?

Writing your life story can help your children or grandchildren to learn more about you. You might not have been famous, adventurous or influential but your family and friends will find your story as interesting as any celebrity autobiography.

A life story book can be an overview of your life, or a snapshot of a particular time, for example childhood, hobby or career. It can heal past wounds, deal with unfinished business or even reveal family secrets.

If you fancy having a go yourself, you could start by writing a memoir, which doesn’t have to include every detail of your life in chronological order - it’s a story from a life, so focus on key events, such as a career or relationship. If you’re tackling a longer life story, select up to 20 key life events and think about how you can link them to create a narrative.

Before you start to write, do plenty of research. You might think you remember everything that’s happened, but look back through old diaries and photographs, listen to music, or visit an old house or school to trigger memories. Decide on the structure and create summaries for each chapter before you start to write. Dialogue and vivid description are great, however, don’t get bogged down in unnecessary detail that slows down the narrative.

And remember that a life story isn’t just about you, it’s about other people, so talk to parents, siblings and other key people for their take on events. However, penning and publishing a book can be daunting, so, if you need help, a life story writing service like Memory Lane Books can help.

During a series of personal visits, an interviewer will chat about your life to gather life stories and recollections before shaping them into a narrative.

Grace Parker had been telling her two grandchildren about travelling to New Zealand as one of the Ten Pound Poms when she realised her story might soon be forgotten.

“It was such an important time of my life but I never really talk about it,” says Grace. “I wanted to write it down so that my great-grandchildren could find out about what
I did – after all, I might not be around to tell them.”

Grace started writing her life story but found the project daunting - arthritis in her hands didn’t help either - so she turned to Memory Lane Books for help. The one-to-one chats helped her remember and record the details of the trip and other important times in her life.

Using a professional life story service, your words will be edited, written and proof read – you’ll get to check and approve the story as you go through the process. After choosing up to 50 photographs, the finished 150-
page book will be typeset, designed and printed, forming your personal history into a professional book.

“I’ve been showing it to all my friends and some of them have found out things about me that we’ve never spoken about,” says Grace, who’s given copies of her book to her children and grandchildren, while another
one has pride of place on her bookshelf. “I sometimes get it out and read a bit,” she admits. “It’s wonderful to reminisce and a real talking point when friends visit.”

She adds: “I know that my family have now got a permanent record of my life, and hope my book will become a family heirloom.”

If you’d like to embark on a once-in-a-lifetime
project, please contact Helen Gregory on 077997 64414 or email helen@memorylanebooks.co.uk to
discuss how we can bring your life to life.