View Full Version : Where to start?

09-12-2005, 11:35 PM
I'm new to writing biographies, and I was hoping a seasoned writer could tell me his or her experiences with this kind of writing. I'm planning to write a biography of my father, but I'm not sure how to go about it. Any advice or tips for this fiction writer will be greatly appreciated! Thanks!

09-13-2005, 12:02 AM
Not a seasoned writer myself, but I do have one question. Ok, so it's a question I feel like expanding upon. Is this biography one that is meant just for your family, the sort of thing with a limited readership? Or is your father the sort who is famous enough or has enough of an extraordinary story that thousands of people might walk into a bookstore and want to hear his story? How to go about this depends on your audience.

If you're writing a biography for just your family, you might want to give a detailed account of his life starting from birth. Then get it printed by a POD company or print shop depending on just how many copies you need.

If it's a mass market book for a commercial publisher, your focus will probably be different. Tell a story. If he's a celebrity, the story would be of how he acquired fame and fortune. If he's less well known but has some interesting story of how he did something extraordinary, your plot should revolve around that, and pick up where the story begins.

09-13-2005, 12:11 AM
Those are good points. My father's career -- logging -- is of local interest in the part of Michigan where I grew up. When I first discussed this project with my sister, she suggested that I write the biography in such a way that it could potentially be sold in some of the tourist locations. I think there could be a market for such a story as my dad's life exemplifies the lives of so many who live in Michigan's Upper Peninsula.

Thanks for your response. You've given me some things to think about. Also, does anyone have any advice on how to begin such a project?

09-13-2005, 12:36 PM
I would suggest that you read some other biographies, in particular ones that are of local interest, to see how others have gone about it. If it's a local-interest book, one thing you might think of including is photographs - both of him and the local area - if you have them. Over here (Cotswolds in the UK) we have a lot of local photograph-based books that are popular both with tourists and locals alike. Some of them are purely collections of photographs or postcards, but some of them are historical accounts or biographical accounts.

With regard to structuring, there are lots of ways you can go. The most obvious is a linear narrative - starting from the beginning and having a new chapter for each decade, or each stepping stone (e.g. childhood, first job, marriage, etc.). But you could also structure it in other ways (e.g. section about his work, section about family, section about friendships, etc. or structure it around big local events).

What do you want to get out of the project? What do you want it to say? Where are you going to get the material from (e.g. just your own memories; interviews with friends and family; letters; etc.)? Once you know what your aims are, it might be easier to make a start - either on the research, or on the actual writing.

Good luck!