Non-fiction & Life Writing

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Non-fiction & Life Writing

For anyone currently writing - or planning to write - non-fiction, memoir or biography. A space to discuss researching, writing, submitting for publication and whatever else you like!

Hi all, newbie here. Not quite got sure how to navigate the forums yet but thought I'd say hello. I ghostwrite autobiographies for a living. Currently working on half a dozen different books at various stages – thank goodness for Scrivener! Most are for private publication, 40 or 50 copies for family and friends. Also close to completing an autobiography written with a well-known musician, which will probably be self-published and another couple of interesting projects. Sometimes struggle with the mechanics of it all – formatting for print, ebooks, Google Docs, etc. Looking forward to learning from others and swapping experiences.   

Has anyone here sent in a freedom of information (FOI) request to a government department as part of their research? Any tips? Did you spell out very precisely what you wanted to access or were you quite broad? Was your request successful? I'm preparing a FOI request for the Foreign Office (or The Foreign and Commonwealth Development Office as I now know it's called - for the era I'm interested in, it was called The Foreign Office!)... 

Can we talk about research, please?! Alongside my fiction writing I'm very slowly researching two separate non-fiction ideas. One has slid onto the back burner as I really need to do in-person interviews to progress it so that will be post-vaccine, I guess. But the other is very much go. It concerns events and real people's experiences in the 1940s in both the UK and USSR. I'm looking for suggestions to add to my list of research sources. 

So far I've concentrated on: to trace descendents

British Newspaper Archive (and some global ones)

National Archives/Kew (online)

10 million books

Hansard records

Fold3 (military records)

Anywhere else?! 

Hi all, I'm just finishing a six week course on writing a memoir at Curtis Brown creative.  I see they are offering another version of the course in a five day intensive form in October.  I can really recommend it.  Even the first section of the first module answered so many of my questions and fears and set me on my way with much more courage - and excitement!.

Hi, I'm hoping someone could give me a few pointers! I usually write fiction in the psychological crime genre. I have also written an adventure series for middle grade. I have now been approached by an acquaintance to write their memoir. This is totally new territory for me and i have explained this to the lady in question. She has contacted me today to ask if I would commence interviews and discuss the matter further. I have agreed to meet up next week. I mentioned that she might like to think about the 'thread' of her memoir, whether she would prefer to focus on a particular time, place or indeed person upon which to bring her anecdotes together. Also, she should consider her audience, whether this project is for herself, her family or indeed a wider audience. The problem I have (one of many - eek!) is that she has mentioned an hourly rate. This type of writing is new for me so I have no idea what to charge and in what format. I plan to record interviews with her and have advised her as such so hopefully this will simplify the interview process and provide me with a 'takeaway' experience of her stories and her own voice with which to work. Does anyone know whether it is usual for example to propose a fixed amount of hours per week/month or would a word count fee be more appropriate. I don't want to undercharge for my time but I want to arrive at a pricing framework that is fair to the client as I am a novice within this genre! Any suggestions/advice would be very gratefully received. Thank You!

I have three one-to-one sessions coming up to pitch my memoir. We're asked to upload a query letter, synopsis and first 5,000 words. I read in a FB group for non-fiction writers that a non-fiction/memoir synopsis is actually a chapter breakdown plus a "sample chapter and a book proposal, which must include an outline, target audience, marketing ideas including your “platform,” some comparable titles and how your book differs from them, and a short bio that explains why you are uniquely qualified to write this book."

Holly Seddon what do you and others suggest? & thank you!

Hi all,

My names is James and have just released my first of five upcoming books 'Memoirs of a 20th Century Gentleman' available as a free giveaway till the end of the month via the link below.

I'm happy to join the group and look forward to learning about about you all and your work.



James B. Hansom

SPREAD THE WORD is currently offering a Free online course on Life Writing and Memoir until the end of July. They'll send you links to the previous weeks' modules as well, so you won't miss out. Register here: 

Happy Writing!   Enjoy!

Hi, is anyone writing narrative non-fiction and prepared to chat?

Hi there, I'm hoping to create an impactful and relatable memoir/collection of essays based on my experiences living through motherhood with mental illness and chronic pain. My mission now is to collect all the essays/writing I've done over the last six years on this subject (published on websites and my own blog) and try to organize it into some sort of cohesive form. Is there anyone in the group working on something similar? A memoir? A collection of essays? Would be grateful for any tips and advice! Thanks, Tara


I’m writing my first non fiction piece. It covers a series of events over 15 years which I played a small part in. The narrative is supplied from quoted testimonies of those involved, interwoven with the historical facts which provide the background. For each section of dialogue/testimony, I introduce the subject (ie, ‘Fred Davis was one of those involved, he recalls: “blah blah blah”’). The slight issue I have is that some of the testimony comes from myself.

It certainly isn’t enough to write the entire book in the first person (my involvement covers a few years of a 15 years story, and it really isn’t ‘my’ story to tell in this way), switching to first person just for my bits seems awkward, and writing my name feels weird (‘Tom Harris remembers: “blah blah...”’). I’m wondering if refering to myself as ‘The author’ is the best approach, or whether there is a ‘correct’ way of approaching this?

If anyone has any thoughts or ideas, they would be very gratefully received.

I'm of the same generation as Lajazz. My self-published story is from two generations earlier. The next book will tell of the between war years ~ 1920 to 1939 and, assuming I get that far, then the war years. The main reason I self-published was that I wanted to meet the 100-year anniversary date of the events described. I have made a number of mistakes on the way. One was not to plan and initiate my marketing strategy before publishing my book. So now I have to catch up and learn how to market on-line. 

I have read your page and a bit and I find it engaging and would almost certainly read more if it was available. It has a strong element of nostalgia in it for me. However, my generation can't be the main target readership. There are not too many of us left.