You’ve lived an interesting/horrible/painful/amazing life and you want to share your story with the world in order to entertain/warn/help others. Cool! But you need to ask yourself a simple question (or two) first. The answers won’t be simple, but the questions are.
Will you be telling your story as a fictional tale? Or will you tell it as the truth? If you choose to tell it as the truth, will you write it in your own name or under an alias?
You may have an easy answer on the tip of your tongue, but is it the right one? Let’s take a look at the pros and cons of both answers (to the first question).
WRITING IT AS FICTION:
- No one gets hurt because the names have been changed and maybe even the location.
- You don’t actually have to prove any of it if you don’t provide the story as the truth.
- You might reach some people because you’ve created a compelling story with fascinating characters, but they won’t take it seriously and invite you on their talk shows.
- No lessons will be learned, no people will be helped if readers don’t know that the lessons were actually learned by the author (you) first.
WRITING IT AS A TRUE TELL-ALL
- People will read the words of someone who has lived this life and they will relate, either directly or indirectly.
- People who need help with their own situation may finally get help because of your words touching their lives.
- Your story will make you the talk of the town and you’ll make millions with film rights, be invited to next to Ellen and Jimmy and maybe do some car karaoke with James. (this Pro could also be a Con, depending on yourself)
- The people you wrote about in your life will now be exposed to the media circus that usually comes with controversial tell-alls. Maybe the bad people will be punished in courts of law, but EVERYONE will be raked over the coals in the courts of public opinion, including innocent people.
- You will now be defined by the events you wrote about. You will forever be remembered as “the person who had X happen to them”. This may also be a Pro if it wasn’t traumatic but rather happy (ie: Your path to the Olympics).
- The people who you expose to the world through your story may come to hate you for the facts you’ve exposed, or their private lives you’ve made less private.
- If you can’t back up your facts, you WILL DEFINITELY be sued by anyone you’ve said anything negative about. And even if you CAN back them up, you will probably be sued anyway. Slander and libel are serious crimes.
WRITING TRUTH UNDER AN ALIAS:
Good luck with that. In this day and age of the Internet and Social Media there are very few secrets. Your pen name will remain anonymous for about an hour and a half. Just ask J.K Rowling. If you want to truly keep the writer of your tale a secret, then you won’t be able to do any signings or publicity because as soon as you do, you will be outed. It only takes one person watching ELLEN to recognize you and post your picture on Instagram for your secret to be out. Just saying.
So, what have you decided? I can’t tell you which answer is the best one for your story and your situation, but I can tell you that you need to have a lot of conversations with a lot of people who will be affected if you tell your story as the truth, especially the people you care about.
If you simply want to get the story on paper and told but don’t need to expose anyone in particular, maybe writing it as fiction is the way to go. You will change names and maybe alter a few characters to make them less recognizable, but if your story is about how you were sexually molested by a mechanic uncle and you change it to be a gas station attendant cousin, you will probably still have to deal with the courts if you imply publicly that any of the story is true.
Now that I’ve said all of that and probably not helped you one whit, I’ll finish with this: some stories need to be told in order for healing to occur. If you need to tell yours in order to get to a healthier place in your life, tell it. Maybe start telling it to a therapist, if you haven’t already. Maybe discuss it with family members who will listen. That may be all you need.
If you decide to write it for non-fiction publication, outline it crisply and concisely, and maybe write and polish the first chapter. Put together a professional pitch before you take it to an agent or publisher. If you decide to write it as fiction, then write the best damned story you can. Get help. Hire a professional ghostwriter if you can’t write it yourself. Or take classes and learn how to ‘tell your story’ effectively. Most cities have a night class through one of the local colleges about telling your story or writing your memoirs.
If you have a wonderful, inspiring story to tell, congratulations. If you have a dark tale of abuse and pain to tell, I’m truly sorry you had to go through that. I wish everyone’s stories were happy.
MY FINAL POINT: If you approach a writer friend and ask them to help you write your story, don’t be hurt when (not ‘if’) they turn you down. Unless they’re a professional ghostwriter or published author of non-fiction tell-alls, they will probably wish you well and decline. Most of us write fiction. We tell the stories that bounce around in our own little heads. We do it because we’re passionate about our stories. That’s our art. Unless you’re willing to pay upfront (and not ‘I’ll split the profits with you’) you will need to write your own story.
Of course, this is all just my own opinion. Others may and will tell you differently. Do some research, and get references from anyone who says they’ll help you for a price (also Google their name/company and ‘scams’, to see what comes up). There are a lot of scam artists out there willing to take your money for ‘editing’ and ‘printing’ and ‘publicity’ who will give you a second-rate product and take your money (usually thousands of $$).
Ciao for now,