I have had the pleasure of traveling and meeting thousands of people. I have met both rich and poor. I have laughed with the happy and cried with those who were sad. I have spoken with both scholars and the illiterate. I can safely say I have met people from every sphere of life, but I have never met someone who did not have a story worth telling.
Like everyone I have met, through your life experiences, values and personality, you are one of the rarest things in creation. Just like your fingerprint, you have been created one-of-a-kind. There may be people who look like you, walk like you, and talk like you, but none of them are you. The way you think, feel, and interpret the world around you, gives you a perspective like no other. Whether you are young or old, rich or poor, saint or sinner, you have a unique place in the world, and that is why your story needs to be told. Your account may be birthed out of critical events in your life, a crucial childhood memory, or an unbridled imagination. Regardless of what factors produce the seed of your story, you have one that needs to be told. It is of the utmost importance that your story is told and added to the tapestry of history. Your story will inspire, encourage and maybe even provoke.
There are people whose lives will be transformed by your story. Your story may begin with a single idea you can't seem to shake or a traumatic event that haunts your dreams. It may come from the lofty heights of some grand achievement or deep despair of some failure. It may come as you hold a newborn baby or as you say goodbye to a departed loved one. Your story is living big inside of you, eager to come to the surface and be shared with the world. Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram have exploded because people consciously or subconsciously attempt to tell their stories. And while these venues are outlets for fragments of your story, they can by no means present it in a cohesive format. Instead, your joy, drama, successes, and failures weave a tapestry that will encourage people to abandon their excuses, escape mediocrity and strive for excellence. Your story may not be a New York Times bestseller, but for the people whose lives it touches, your story will be a sensation.
Why is your story important? Answer: Because it is your story. The highs, the lows, the ups and downs, fantasy or nonfiction your story needs to tell. Whether you are raised in a mansion or foster care, have a sense of humor, or are as dry as a bone, your story is something in the plethora of experiences you have survived. The realization that you have a story can be quite liberating. It can provide a partial explanation for some of the things you've been through when you realize that many of your life experiences place you in a better position to help someone. Your battles won or lost can be a conduit for your story. Even your imagination can become your story; storm the castle, journey into space, or win the heart of someone you love can all be expressed through your story. Your story may be as grand as Harry Potter was simple as Little Red Riding Hood, as long as war and peace were short as three little pigs. There is a place where your story fits. I am not tasking you with writing the Great American novel, but you owe it to your family, friends, and the world to tell your story. You never know how many people it will help or lives it will change, but it will help some, and it will change others because it is your story.
Before the electronic age, people kept diaries that chronicled their daily life experiences. We know so much about the founders of this great country primarily because of the journals they owned, the letters they penned, and the autobiographies they wrote. Today as you read this, your story is unfolding. But, how will future generations know anything about you or your loved ones unless you chronicle them? You have in your power to impart to future generations both your wisdom and insight.
Each day new chapters of your life are being formed. Will the next chapter contains information about how you began to tell your story, or will the world be denied your account as you keep it sequestered in your heart and mind? Getting your story started can be easier than you think.
To begin with, if you are writing something autobiographical, you already know the whole story. Start with the early years and move on from there. Tell of how you spent your youth, your first love, and that time you got in trouble stealing cookies; you get the point. Maybe explain how you tried and failed at starting several businesses before you hit the right formula. Perhaps you are a cancer survivor; many can gain hope from your story. How did you first take the news of having cancer, how did you deal with the treatments, and how did your family react to the information? If you have a skill, you can use your story to teach others.
Even your story of fiction needs to be told. Whatever your story, develop an outline highlighting key points and move on from there. "Outlining Your Novel" by K.M.Weiland will help a good book. For help with fiction story arcs, see the blog on "Character arcs or How I plot a Novel in 5 Steps". If you have an idea and need help developing your story for a fee, some services can help. Prime The Pump Publications has a program to help people build their stories from ideas to finished books. They can help you develop all phases of your story and get it printed. While their services are not free, they can be a great help and well worth it.
Once your story is outlined, begin filling in the significant points. One way that helps many writers is to develop a timeline. Using a timeline, write about each event in the order you recall them. "Structuring Your Novel" is another book that can help you. Keep track of ideas that come to you while away from your computer. You will be amazed at how many ideas and events you start to recall once you begin this process. Some people record thoughts on their phones; others write them down on note pads and do whatever works best. Also, confer with people who may help you recall events; this can add depth to your story as you add other viewpoints on the same event.
Next, you may want to compile groups of ideas into chapters that all cover the same subject or time frame again; this is where you can get help from Prime the Pump Publications. Finally, as you develop your story, ask a friend to review what you have written; they can help check for errors and readability; this can go a long way to help fine-tune your story, but do not be afraid of criticism. It, too, can help.
Once you have finished your first draft of your story, step away from it for a few days and then return and read it thought. When you do this reading, check for how the story flows, again have a friend read it through and give feedback. It is not uncommon to read a story several times until it feels and reads smoothly.
Before we go further, just a word about formatting your text for the publisher; most publishers will only accept electronically transmitted documents, so make sure you use a program like Word that can produce an email-ready document. Next, set your word document to double space each line, making the editing process more manageable. I recommend using a 14-point font. The larger print size will also aid in editing. The goal is to get your story done and then get it ready to share. Just a little time spent each day and in short order, you will have complete work. This account will be something to pass on to your family for generations to come.
Now maybe I have been moving too fast, and you're finding it hard to see yourself writing your story or any story. Writing may be a new concept and even a scary one, but you can overcome it by following a set of simple steps.
Reduce the process down to five steps:
1. Get down what you already know
2. Write down the basics
3. Fill in the holes
4. Build your foundation
5. Start writing
Following these steps will help you get started, and before you know it, you will have your story completed. Once done, you will be amazed at the satisfaction completing this journey will bring.
James E. Woods II Founder, Co-Owner Prime the Pump Publications, LLC