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Silver Spring, MD
United States


Stories To Tell is a full service book publishing company for independent authors. We provide editing, design, publishing, and marketing of fiction and non-fiction. We specialize in sophisticated, unique illustrated book design.

Stories To Tell Books BLOG

Gathering Stories for Your Memoir or Family History

Nan Barnes

You have decided to tell the stories of your life in a memoir or in a family history. What next? You may feel you have a thousand stories you might include, or you may imagine you can't remember enough. In fact, you'll need to generate a big list, then whittle it down. Trust that with a little effort, you'll have more than enough stories. The question then becomes, which ones will make the best book?

The answer is found through the process of prewriting. Prewriting is everything that a storyteller does before she begins telling her story. It is a process of remembering, gathering and organizing ideas and details that you want to include.

Let’s look at just a few of the many activities you might use:

Top ten lists get David Letterman a lot of laughs. They will also get you a lot of ideas. All you need to do is select any potential topic and make a list of the top ten memories you associate with that topic:

  • The ten most important turning points in your life

  • The ten family stories you would most like to see preserved

  • The ten most influential people in your life and how they influenced you

  • Your ten greatest accomplishments and why they are important

  • Ten things you value most in your life

There are almost unlimited possibilities for lists. Those above are only examples of how the process works.

You’ve probably written a resume. A life resume is a great way to generate ideas for a memoir. Some of the things you might want to include in your life resume are:

  • Work experiences

  • Relationships

  • Health history

  • Places you have lived

  • Travel

  • Hobbies

  • Successes

  • Failures

  • Favorites (books, movies, music, recipes)

  • Lessons (insights you have gained about life)

Look at each of the items you have included in your resume and think of a story associated with it or illustrating it. You’ll be amazed at how many ideas you will generate for stories to include in your memoir.