Don’t Become a Slave to Chronology

You Don’t Have to Be Famous by Steve Zousmer

The most common mistake in autobiographies and memoirs—the mistake most likely to damage the readability of your book—is becoming a slave to chronology. You dutifully grind out your report on what happened this year and what happened the next year and so on, filling in the boxes of life’s calendar but losing the bigger picture and perhaps the feeling and flavor of life itself.

The success of your book depends to a large degree on your ability to see your story as something more than a procession of events, more than a daily dairy as long as your life.

What you did is only a framework for your life story. Don’t mistake the framework for the substance. Events of long ago are probably not very interesting, to readers or even yourself, unless they evoke the times you’re recalling, bringing them back to life and capturing their emotion and meaning.

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