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Writing the story of you life

Using his won memoir writing experiences, Chris Pownall offers some advice on how to tell your life story

Ever thought about writing your memoirs, but unsure of how to go about it? Well, I did, and I'd like to share my experience with Choice readers who are interested in chronicling their life experiences for posterity- and recording a written account of their journey through life.

Towards he end of my full time employment, I found myself with time on my hands, waiting at airports as part of my global travels.

I decided to begin writing my memoir without giving any real consideration to structure, simply putting down my memories in chronological order. I made steady progress and I guess I had reached the halfway stage when following a long session, I lost confidence in what I was doing and I deleted the whole thing.

Now, with the benefit of hindsight, this is something you should never ever do. Apparently this feeling of despair is quite common to those who are newcomers to writing, and wht I should have done was to have saved it as a reference store of information, for possible use at a later date.

After my retirement, I decided to return to writing my memoirs, but before making a start, I gave a lot of thought as to how I should structure the work, regarding the various stages of my life, and in the end, I came up with a total of five chapters.

Chapter 1: Growing up in a Cheshire village- this dealth with my early childhood until leaving school at 15.

Chapter 2: Early stages of working life- covering the years of my apprenticeship until I was aged 23.

Chapter 3: The Blue Funnel Line- detailing my many experiences during my brief service in the Merchant Navy,

Chapter 4: Nearly 40 years working for James Walker- covering the main part of my working life.

Chapter 5: More than 40 years married to Pat- an account of our shared experiences throughout our long marriage.

Having decided on the structure of my book, I made a start with the first chapter, recording my details on a Microsoft Word document, using a 12 point Calibri font size, on A5 pages with narrow margins. This may sound somewhat technical, but it's really quite easy once you are up and running.

Early in the project I started thinking about a book title, and in consideration of what this might be, I pondered over the themes within my memoir, which are humour and my work. 

Although I've been blessed with a great marriage and two fabulous children, my work has been of major importance in my life. As in all families, there has been sadness, but I decided to leave this out of my memoir and maybe write about that at some later date- which I did!

Combining the subjects of work and humour, I came up with the title, Funny How Things Work Out.

Returning to the structure within my memoirs, it is self evident that things don't run in true chronological order and that chapters four and fice overlap throughout a long period. Having completed chapter one, I started working on the other chapters simultaneously, as thoughts came into my mind about a particular subject.

When you begin searching  your memory, all manner of things spring to mind and it's necessary to record this information there and then; otherwise, it can drift away as quickly as it appeared.

When I was about two thirds through the project, I started thinking about how to get the finished book published and this proved to be a steep learning curve.

Publishers come in many forms, but they fall into a few categories. There are those classified as 'mainstream', but unless you are an establishes author with a sound sales track record, or a celebrity, they will not be interested in publishing your memoir. Then there are 'subsidy' publishers, who will charge you a few hundred pounds, providing they consider your work will sell a certain number of books.

The other category are known as 'vanity' publishers who will basically publish anything, but they will charge you possibly several thousands of pounds for the privilege. Some publishers combine several of these categories/

finally, you can self-publish and there are numerous ways of doing this, some costing quite a lot of money, and other costing nothing. I struck lucky with and the very first publisher I contacted accepted my work, based on me making a part contribution of a few hundred pounds toward the total publishing and marketing costs.

I now use an American publisher used as CreateSpace, which is part of the Amazon group of companies. Providing you use all the online tools provided you can publish your book and it won't cost you a penny. You upload your manuscript files onto their system and, provided they meet certain standards you are home and dry. If, however, you require any assistance from CreateSpace there are charges for this service. It also offers a free cover design template, which is free providing you are capable of using the tools available.

Your book will them  be published as a paperback, on sale throughout the Amazon global network, as well as an e-book marketed as a Kindle via Kindle Direct Publishing. 

I have probably over simplified some of his, but what I say to anyone seeking mmy advice is "If I can do it, so can you."

To date, I have assisted two authors in publishing their books and this has given me a great deal of satisfaction.There are some legal methods to consider, including the protection of you copyright and avoiding any claims for damages bu those mentioned in your book,but, again, advice on these matters is widely available online.

If you think you have a good story to tell that will be of interest to others, get  cracking- and begin writing today.

Have you thought about writing a memoir? Share your story with us 

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