Often, aspiring memoir writers ask me how to get started. Do they just hire a ghostwriter and pay for phone time to start telling their stories and getting them into documents? That’s one way to begin, but it is not the only way. I think it’s important to start the writing yourself so you can begin seeing the themes and lessons that you will want to emphasize in your memoir or book of life lessons. Let me offer some writing prompts for you memoir writers who are trying to figure out how to tell your life story.

 

Writing Prompt #1: Write the inspirational story of the moment in your life when you felt the most empowered. Use sensory detail—words that evoke sounds, sensations, visual images, and so on. What did it feel like to be in your body that moment when you spoke your truth? When you walked away from a bad situation? When you felt completely at one with the universe? When you knew you were okay, for the first time in a very long time? When you knew you had achieved success? (This story may end up being at the very beginning of the book.)

 

Writing Prompt #2: Write a story of being a young child playing. What toy were you playing with, and why did you enjoy playing with it? Use sensory detail. What did it feel like to be lying on the rug in your family’s living room, or sitting on the linoleum in your family’s kitchen? What were you imagining? What were you feeling, emotionally? (This exercise can be very effective for drawing out of your unconscious mind a story that tells us something about who you are as an adult, what you value, and what the themes of your story are.)

 

Writing Prompt #3: Tell a funny story that captures your sense of humor. It could be a recent story or an old one from your childhood. Make sure that this story reveals your vulnerability, so that the reader relates to you person to person instead of just seeing you as an expert or leader. (This story will be a contrast to the first one you wrote)

 

After writing these stories, read them aloud. Make any changes to the writing you feel are necessary. Edit these stories as best you can, checking spelling and grammar.

 

Begin to think about what these stories have in common. What are your strengths, weaknesses, and interests as revealed in these stories? What, if anything, do your stories say to a reader about how you overcame challenges?

 

All memoirs need a narrative arc: We need to see progress in the story. We need to watch you come of age, learn to run a successful business despite humble beginnings and mistakes along the way, grow into a person who has come to peace with your past and developed wisdom and a sense of clarity and purpose, and so on. Think about how you would sum up your memoir in a sentence, and then, in two descriptive paragraphs that might be found on the back of the book or on the Amazon page for the book. Look at other books for examples.

 

Once you done some of the writing and just started to get a sense of what the central story of your memoir is, think about whether you want to write a memoir, a life lessons book, or a self-help book with takeaway exercises and perhaps even an action plan for developing new habits.

 

Whether your plan is to publish the book for yourself and your family and friends, for a larger audience that includes fans of your work as an expert in your field, begin your writing today with these writing prompts for memoir writers. Even if you end up doing a life lessons book or a self-help book, you will be glad you wrote up these stories. Doing so will help you get a better sense of how your personal anecdotes can be integrated into the book you want to write. A professional developmental editor or ghostwriter can better help you if you have put some time into writing some stories and putting some thought to the central story of your memoir.

 

 

memoir writing life story life lessons

Writing prompts can help you get started with your memoir or other book that features your story.

 

 

A rose by any other name would smell as sweet, Shakespeare wrote, but what author name do you want to use for your books? You may not have chosen your birth name, but you do have a choice when it comes to choosing your author name.

As I was reminded of when listening to this excellent podcast on Metadata for Authors over at the IngramSpark website, you want to be consistent in how your author name appears on your books, your websites, your blog pieces, and in any publicity you do as you build your author platform and following. Do you want to use your middle initial or full name? This could be advantageous if you have a common name or if there’s another author who has already established herself as Franchesca Millhouse. Believe me, you might think you have an unusual name, but when you Google it, you might find—well, not so much! Who knew there was more than one Franchesca Millhouse (or whatever your name is) in the universe and she’s all over the Internet and just wrote a book?

Once you have chosen your author name, stick with it. Buy the URL. Secure the dot com of your name and any variations on your name if you can. Dot com is still the preferred website address. It will cost you probably ten or twenty dollars to reserve your name’s URL for a couple of years. Invest in the likelihood that you will use this website address/URL. You don’t have to worry about hosting services or putting up your website—at least, not for the moment.

So whether you are known as John Smith or Franchesca Millhouse, when choosing your author name, do a little research, think about what version of your name would work best for you, and grab that URL.

 

choosing your author name write my book

Choosing your author name? Pick one you will use consistently and that will set you apart from every other person who shares your name.

Finding these tips helpful? Subscribe to my newsletter!

 

Seeking a book deal? Definitely self-publishing? Either way, you need to know how to create a comparative books list. Believe me, as an in-house acquisitions editor at G. P. Putnam’s Sons/Perigee Books and HarperCollins Publishers, I relied on a strong comparative books list to make my case to my colleagues that the book project I was enthusiastic about would be a good investment for the company. When I work with clients to create a vision plan for their book, I find they often get stuck on this crucial piece of their publishing plan. That’s why I wanted to offer some advice here on 4 ways to distinguish your book from comparative books.

 

1. Offer a definitive, big picture view. Maybe the other books out there just don’t give the broader, comprehensive view many readers seek. For example, my book, Raising a Sensory Smart Child, coauthored with Lindsey Biel, is (as the subtitle promises) “The Definitive Handbook for Helping Your Child with Sensory Processing Issues.” As the parent of a child with sensory processing disorder, I didn’t want to buy a dozen books to get the information I needed. I wanted one definitive handbook or “bible.” I’m proud to say that several parents who reviewed it called it their “sensory processing disorder bible.”

 

2. Offer a more focused view. Sometimes, your best bet is to go in the opposite direction of a comprehensive guide—to focus instead on just one specific topic. Many books grow out of a chapter in a previous book or an idea that the previous book inspired. Cinematherapy Goes to the Oscars, which I coauthored with Beverly West, looked specifically at Academy-Award-winning movies and appealed not just to Cinematherapy fans but to fans of the Academy Awards. You might expand on a topic introduced in your previous book or on a topic that came up when doing publicity and marketing for the book. Every year, Bev and I did an annual Cinematherapy Awards press release to tie in with the Academy Awards nominations, and realized that this annual event provided a great way to talk about movies—and in our case, to talk about them in a different way.

 

3. Offer a brand no one can resist. The words you use to convey your message can set your book apart in the marketplace, not just because the words are appealing but because the voice in your writing matches that branding. The bestseller You Are a Badass: How to Stop Doubting Your Greatness and Start Living an Awesome Life had an emotional appeal that made it sound like more than just a self-help book on gaining confidence so that you could improve your life. No, it’s a book about being a badass living an awesome life someone who has greatness ought to be living! The edgy word “badass” is key to the brand. Books can serve as credibility cards for your work as an expert, so choose your wording and graphic look carefully as you create or refresh your brand.

 

4. Offer an updated approach. Even books on so-called “evergreen” topics, like how to become more assertive or how to become more effective at finding a soulmate, need to be updated as society changes and technology alters how we interact with each other and find, share, and save information. Maybe all the books out there on dating don’t cover the complexities of dating when the reader is gender-nonconforming, or they don’t incorporate information on how to use the latest dating apps. Although technology changes, general ways of using tech can remain the same for several years before you need to update. Think “what’s the strategy” not “what’s the specific technology people are using today.”

Sensory Books sensory diet

A comprehensive approach might be the key to making your book stand out among comparative books.

 

I hope these tips make it easier for you to set yourself apart from comparative books. If you’re still struggling with your brand, and would like to work with me on branding, contact me at info@nancypeske.com and tell me are with your brand so we can set up some coaching sessions.

Writing a memoir or nonfiction book but afraid you’re not a “real” writer with a broad enough vocabulary and an ability to create elegant metaphors? Banish that fear. I can offer you three ways to energize your writing to bring it up to the next level so that your book is compelling and your ideas and anecdotes come alive for your readers.

1. Pick strong verbs.

Avoid variations on the verb “to be” where you can because “to be” and its forms are weak, wimpy verbs. Also, turn nouns into strong verbs that make your writing and storytelling more energetic and compelling.

 

Weak: Summer is my favorite season.

“Is” is a form of the verb “to be.”

Strong: I favor summer over all the other seasons.

“Favor” is a strong verb compared to “is.”

 

Weak: My partner made an assumption that I was not ready for change.

“Was” is weak.

Strong: My partner assumed that change would overwhelm me.

“Assumed” is stronger than “made an assumption” and it’s less wordy. “Was” is weak. Also, when you begin choosing verbs that could go into that clause, you start getting more precise with your words, which gives your writing more oomph. Here, turning the noun “assumption” into a strong verb helps tighten the writing, making it more energetic.

2. Use a thesaurus to find variations on words.

Look for the overuse of certain words in your writing. Did you use “creative” in the first sentence of a paragraph, “creativity” in the second sentence, and “create” in another paragraph on the same page? Even if your book is on creativity, you want to use a variety of words to get across the concept of creativity. A thesaurus can lead you to words such as innovative, resourceful, imaginative, originality, inventive, and more. Bonus tip: If it’s hard to find a synonym you haven’t already used, maybe you need to tighten the writing so it’s less repetitive.

3. Use figurative language and wordplay.

If you keep using the same words over and over, you’re in the company of the great writer J.K. Rowling, author of the Harry Potter series, who said she became frustrated trying to find new ways of saying “corridor” or “hall” when describing the movement of characters. When it seems there’s no way to avoid overusing a word that’s key to your story, work, and message, consider using figurative language and wordplay.

Weak: I created my 40-day program for people who think they’re not creative to help them develop their creativity.

We get it! But using variations on “to create” over and over will bore your reader.

Strong: I developed my 40-day program for people who think they’re not “the creative type” to help them discover their inner playground child, the self that sees the world as a playground filled with possibilities for doing something different and innovative.

Here, the writer actually is using figurative language to energize her writing and help brand herself at the same time. As a developmental editor or ghostwriter who also does book publishing consultations, I would say, “Terrific! Now Google ‘inner playground child’ to see if anyone else is using it, and consider buying the dot com URL (www.PlaygroundChild.com) to reserve it—and setting up an Inner Playground Child professional page on Facebook to help secure your brand and a clever turn-of-phrase to go with it.” Branding is key for setting your book and your work apart from others’ in the marketplace, so I would help steer you toward words, phrases, and clauses that would be unique to you.

 

Need help with writing, strategizing, branding, and envisioning your nonfiction mind/body/spirit book? Contact me today and let me know where you are with your plan for your book and what kind of help you need. (Perhaps a Vision Plan is your next step?)

 

 

energize your writing book power

 

 

Ghostwriters don’t often get attention. Being invisible is pretty much baked into our job description! However, I was just recognized by Feedspot for having one of the top 40 ghostwriter blogs on the Internet, and I’ll wear that as a badge of honor even though I can’t officially admit to ghostwriting anything. You will have to trust me on my ghostwriting experience. Shhhhh! Best ghostwriter blog . . . well, my blog IS for people seeking a ghostwriter, and I know some ghostwriters have learned from me by reading it. I’ll take the badge!

best ghostwriter blog top 40

My blog and NancyPeske.com was honored as one of the top 40 ghostwriter blogs by Feedspot. Yay!

 

How do I work as a ghostwriter? The partnership between my clients and me varies wildly from client to client, book to book, and even chapter to chapter. Quite often, I don’t even ghostwrite. Instead, I do developmental editing, consulting, and coaching. I commonly help a client stay true to her brand by going over a manuscript she has drafted and making specific suggestions about voice, tone, and content as well as structure and approach. We talk about title, message, audience, and platform, and what this book is meant to be.

 

New clients sometimes have trouble understanding this “big picture” approach to editorial development. I think that’s because many people mistakenly assume they know what editors do and what editing is. It’s more complicated than merely “fixing” text. You may want to hire me as a ghostwriter, which is a big commitment on your part and mine, but we may end up working together differently—with me serving as more of a developmental editor, book writing coach, and book publishing consultant. So while on some projects, I will ghostwrite—interview the client, write all the drafts, and go over them with the client, who then makes changes in the document or suggests them over the phone—very often, what I’m doing is less writing and more developmental editing, strategizing, shaping, and branding.

 

Want to get started? Here are the options:

 

Are you solidly committed to spending five figures on a ghostwriter? Fill out my contact form. That way, I can help you determine whether I might be the best ghostwriter for you, let you know whether I’m available, and steer you toward a highly talented colleague if need be.

 

Are you unsure of whether you want to make a big financial commitment to ghostwriting, but certain you want to get your book written and published? Fill out my contact form and tell me more.

 

Give me some details and it will be much easier for me to help you.

 

Your book idea CAN go from vision to reality!

 

And if you want to access the insights of a bestselling ghostwriter, developmental editor, book writing coach, and book publishing consultant, be sure to sign up for my newsletter on my home page, which will deliver my blog to your in box (plus you’ll get a copy of my eBook 7 Great Tips for Finding the Perfect Publisher). Thanks!

Nancy Peske hire a ghostwriter developmental editor

I’m not an actual ghost, just a ghostwriter…and developmental editor…and book writing coach…and book publishing consultant.

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