Anyone who has a story they need to tell knows that, sooner or later, they have to set it free.
For many people, time is the enemy. They know there aren’t enough hours in the day to write their story, and do it justice. And that’s why they turn to biography writers for help.
Think of it as a purely pragmatic decision. If you hire a writer, your book will get written. Not in ten years’ time. This year.
Does hiring biography writers reflect badly on you? Should your memoir be all your own work?
A good memoir will be well structured, and written with pace and energy, so that it is compelling to read. (And you can give kudos to your biography writer for that!) But first and foremost, it needs a compelling narrative.
The narrative comes from you. All the events that have made up your life or your career will make up your book. I don’t think it matters who tells the story of your life, because the story is entirely yours. And the book will be the sum total of your experiences.
But this question of ownership is bigger than that. And I think there are reasons why it’s actually better to work with biography writers, rather than write it yourself.
Reasons like these …
Your objective critic
Books that have had the benefit of an objective eye are (almost always) better books.
Memoir writers need someone who is unafraid to ask the awkward questions that readers are going to ask. Someone to investigate why one course of events led to another, or why that big reveal in Chapter 4 made you do what you did in response.
Your life story makes perfect sense to you in ways that readers simply can’t intuit for themselves. That’s why an biography writers will subject your work to the fiercest investigation. They’ll make sure that readers can understand the underlying threads that hold your story together, and really empathise with your journey.
I should warn you though that letting someone develop your story into a book will take you out of the realms of wouldn’t-it-be-nice-to-write-a-book into the much harsher world of scrutiny that comes with actually writing a book. It may be a far cry from the fantasy, but it’s the place where, very often, books actually develop into workable, publishable propositions.
Why your book needs to take on a life of its own
You may already have a set idea of what you want your book to be. But sometimes, books develop in unexpected ways. Your straightforward linear narrative might not tell your story to best effect. Or an event you only meant to describe briefly, might suddenly assume greater importance as the manuscript is being developed.
Working with an objective writer will help you see your book from different perspectives.
Together, you can look at the many ways in which your book can develop if it takes a slightly different path. You can embrace the freedom to let your story go where it needs to go to tell your story to the greatest narrative or dramatic effect.
Believe in better!
It’s possible that relationships between authors and biography writers can end up being a little bit conformational as well as collaborative! But don’t shy away from that …
You might not even win every battle, but just so long as you remember that your writer is only ever fighting with your book’s best interests at heart, you’ll be fine. Because every single battle you have over wording, structure, style, or phrasing will make your book better.
As in writing, so in life: when you have to work harder to justify your point of view, it galvanises you. Having someone else scrutinise – and challenge your ideas – can only make them shine brighter. And at the end of it all, you’ll have so much more belief in your book.
Breaking out of your comfort zone
When we look back at our lives, our narratives can seem quite fixed. We know what happened and why. We all appreciate the linkages between the subtle actions that make up our individual stories. And clearly, there’s no one better to tell our stories than ourselves. But …
It’s all too easy to fall into the trap of telling the story of our life in the same way, every time. We tell it that way, because that’s how it’s cemented itself in our mind. But that doesn’t mean it’s the most dramatic, or emotive way to tell our story.
When you work with biography writers, they’ll encourage you to look at your story in new ways. And that isn’t going to dilute what you want to say, it will only enrich it by giving you fresh perspectives on your own narrative.
One of the most surprising benefits of working with someone else is that it will take some pressure off your inner critic. And, as anyone who’s ever written anything will tell you, beating your inner critic is one of the biggest battles you’ll ever have to win.
Having the ability to critique your own work is a good facility to have when it comes to writing and editing, but it’s a tricky thing to harness effectively. It can stop some would-be writers in their tracks. But when you work with someone else, you don’t have to make everything perfect, that’ll be their job.
Above all, you know that their ideas, commentary, and critique are all going to be objective, and reader-focussed. That takes all the pressure off you to try and assess what constitutes good or ‘bad’ writing, or to try and second-guess what readers want.
Ready to team up?
If you could benefit from a little (or a lot) of help in telling your story, do get in touch for an initial discussion …