1. Keep notes and use what you already have
If you’ve kept a journal, made social media posts, or regularly write blogs, emails, or letters, these are great resources for your storytelling. Here you have described that event, your emotions, exact statements and further details – at the time that something happened – which can now make your story much more alive.
2. Use the hero’s journey for your storyline and suspense
We’re used to Hollywood movies and bestselling books following a certain storyline, and for good reason. You will recognize ‘the hero’s journey’ in all good stories.
You don’t have to follow this structure exactly; the main thing is that the road to success isn’t a straight line. It has many ups and downs. Take your reader through all the stages.
3. Break the chronology
Richard Branson’s biography begins with a hot air balloon about to crash. You have no idea who Richard is or how he ended up in that hot air balloon, but you are immediately drawn into the story. The first chapter ends with a cliffhanger. In the next chapter we learn how he set up his ‘Virgin’ empire and how he eventually survives that balloon crash.
The first chapter of a successful biography never begins with “when I was born I was very young.” It usually hits the spot: the book starts the middle of a super exciting scene, which of course ends in a ‘cliffhanger’. The follow inge chapter is the perfect moment to tell the background and history of the main character. At a certain point, you will automatically end up in that exciting scene again, of which you now know the context, and you learn how it ends.
4. Take the reader into what you knew THEN
In fiction books (and autobiographies) it often happens that you describe your first meeting with a person, who later in the story turns out to be not so nice at all. For example, a business partner who cheated on you or a love partner who was not who they seemed.
When you describe that first meeting in your book, try not to immediately pour out all your doubts and resentments about that person. Let the reader sympathize with you, with what you knew and felt at that moment. So that guy who later caused that ugly divorce ,gave you butterflies in your stomach the first time you met. Focus on that and take the reader step by step through all the fun things that attracted you to him. After a while, the first doubt arises, but you cover it (together with the reader) with the mantle of love. Over time, more and more doubts or irritations arise, until at a certain point, together with the reader, you end up at a point of doubt: will this work or not? Balance on that point with your reader for a while, with all the ups and downs that come with it. Only then will you arrive at the point where you are now: with all the knowledge and experience and the complete picture. Many writers go too fast here: “I met Peter and immediately saw that he was a narcissist.” Oh yeah? If so, why did you marry him?
5. Process things that happened today
Have you just seen a movie, had a discussion, solved a client’s problem? That subject, which is still so vivid in your memory, has that fresh energy that can give the story a sparkle. Don’t wait until it ‘fits’ into your schedule; write it down right away. Catch that sparkle! Your readers will thank you for it.