Don’t Start at the Beginning

Jellybooks, a service that tracks reading habits, has found that readers don’t get past the first 50 to 100 pages for the majority of fiction ebooks they read. Why? Because they can’t get into the story. The same principle applies for memoirs.

I like to read biographies and memoirs. It is one of the genres I read on a regular basis. I am a social worker by training, so I am very interested in people and their stories. I have read hundreds of memoirs.

The number of books in the memoir genre is growing substantially with indie publishing. Many people, especially Christian authors, feel they that their life story is worth sharing so that they can encourage others to seek and follow God.

However, I find that many of these authors don’t take the time to find out how to write a compelling memoir. They simple want to tell their story. As a result, many start at the beginning—just like this author:

“I remember the house I lived in until I was three years old. I can walk through the entire house in my head. My mother was an amazing homemaker.”

I recently read this memoir that started at the beginning and I almost didn’t keep reading. However, since I had met the author in person, I persevered. This was actually a story of overcoming addiction. That author started by talking about how “normal” her life was prior to four years of age (boring) and proceeded to chronicle her life from there.

A memoir is a story. Authors need to remember this. All stories have to start with a hook—something that draws the reader in to want to read more. This hook should be a compelling story that has an emotional draw.

Remember, most people don’t care about your life story. I know, ouch. The truth hurts. Other than your family and friends, most people are not going to care about your story—unless—they can relate to or are interested in what you have to talk about. Readers are drawn to stories that speak to a specific issue or problem they face. They want to find inspiration and courage from someone who has already walked and survived the path they find themselves on.

Don’t start at the beginning. Start with a fascinating story that draws the reader in. For example:

  • If your book is about following the call of God to the mission field, then start with a captivating story from your time on the mission field, like being surrounded at spearpoint by a group of tribal men.
  • If your book is about surviving cancer, then start with an emotional story about receiving the cancer diagnosis, the surgery, or chemotherapy treatments.
  • If your book is about recovery from addiction, then start with a perilous story about purchasing drugs or trouble you got into while high.

Selling books is already a tough job. Don’t make it harder by starting at the beginning so readers abandon your book. You want readers to find your memoir a fascinating read that they recommend to others.

Related Posts:
What’s Your Message?
Have You Written a Memoir?
Starting Strong May Not Be Enough?

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