How to write your story without getting it wrong
Are you burning to tell your personal story in a book? And are you sure how you’re going to go about it – what to include, how much to omit, and whether to start at the beginning or to move the timeline around?
As a book writing coach I am often approached by people who have a unique, personal experience they’d love to share with the world. Some have been through challenging times and have learned a lot in the process. Many have even made this the central focus of their coaching and speaking, thereby helping others facing the same hurdles in life.
If this is you, I bet you’d be delighted to be asked to speak, or to gain a steady stream of clients, as a result of having written your book.
But here’s the thing. Your experiences need to resonate with your readers, so they can make sense of them and take action. And this is where some authors go astray – they get so caught up in their story they forget to make it work for others too. It’s an easy mistake to make.
I’m going to show you how to plan the perfect story step by step, without getting it wrong.
Create your story timeline
Take a sheet of paper and divide it lengthwise. Write the main points of your story in a list on the left hand side – just the critical elements of it. Then on the right, put the points you want to get across to your readers. After that, you can see how they match up, which will give you a great starting point for outlining your book.
Here’s an example. Jean is writing a book about weight loss. Previously she’s tried every diet under the sun, but none of them have worked. After several years of yo-yo dieting, the penny dropped that she needed to combine foods in certain ways in order to shift that weight forever. Now she’s a fraction of her previous weight and wants to help others in the same situation.
Her story timeline might look like this (this is a simplified version, in reality it would be more detailed):
1) How the weight crept on
2) Diet no. 1
3) Diet no. 2 (and so on)
4) Her lowest point – feeling overweight and in despair
5) How she realised where she’d been going wrong, and why
6) The steps she took to put it right
7) The present day
Plot out your learning points beside it
The next step is for Jean to work out how she’s going to link her story to the points she wants to make for her readers. To do this, she’ll match each point to a moment in her story, with the numbers correlating with each other. It will look like this:
1) Bad eating habits and how they are formed
2) Why diet no. 1 didn’t work – what the reader can learn from this
3) Why diet no. 2 didn’t work (and so on)
4) Empathy with the reader so they feel understood
5) The science bit – educating the reader so they understand why all the previous diets didn’t work
6) How the reader can emulate her success
7) Inspiration for the reader – what they can achieve
You can do this too. By matching your story to your points, you’ll see which bits of your story are superfluous (in other words, interesting to you but not necessary for your book). Or you may identify some areas which need extra stories to give your book variety and extra credibility; people you’ve interviewed or helped outside of your book, for instance.
How to write your own irresistible story
Telling your story so it makes it easy for your readers to learn is the surest way to make it a success. Just keep this one thing in mind: think of your story from the your reader’s viewpoint, rather than from your own. Once you do that, it’s easy.
A great way to start is at the end of your story. Here you are, out at the other end, and wouldn’t your readers love to know how you did it?
Or you could start at your lowest point; this after all is presumably where your reader is at, and they’ll want to know you understand their problem. After that you could go back to the beginning, giving them the ‘back story’, and taking them through your solution so they end up in the same happy place as you.
Whichever route you choose, your story could be the turning point for many people – think how rewarding it will feel when one of them comes up to you after your speech and tells you how much your book has helped them.
Do you have a story you’re burning to tell? Let me know in the comments below!