What a Timeline Means to your Memoir

Today, I’d like to talk to memoir ghostwriting clients about something I use in the process of writing your memoir: a timeline. The timeline is a research document, and in it, I simply catalogue all the life events you’ve told me about. I put these events into a grid, in order, listed by year.

Timelines help organize interview notes

It has come to my attention that a lot of my ghostwriting clients think I memorize the stuff they tell me about their lives. Uhhhh… no. I actually record our interviews and transcribe the information into hundreds, sometimes thousands, of pages of interview notes.

The computer helps me sift through all these pages to find the information I need. In order to make it easier for me to organize your life story, I go through all those pages and make a timeline of events. Don’t worry, not all the events I put in the timeline will be in the book. This is just a research document for keeping track of everything.

We’ll  Work Together to Perfect the Timeline

Typically, I ask the client to take a look at the timeline and correct any errors. Rest assured, there will be errors. For instance, people often tell me the same story in several different ways, attributing the same event to totally different moments in time. This is just the kooky way the human brain works. When building the timeline, I’ll make my best guess as to when each event happened. Ultimately though, you’ll have to have the last word on that.

Sometimes clients are taken aback by the cold, clinical nature of the timeline. After all, it won’t contain any emotional or sensory details. Please don’t freak out. This isn’t your memoir! It’s just a preliminary research document.

The Best Ghostwriters Use Timelines

My skill as a memoir ghostwriter is to ask the right questions in order to go deep and get the information we need to write really insightful memoirs. (Here’s a blog about using a timeline to find a memoir theme) As a ghostwriter, I’m an expert listener, but I’m not expected to have a photographic memory. The timeline is something we write together, to get your story in order.

The best ghostwriters understand how preliminary documents like timelines make the writing flow smoothly. A lot of confusion and rewrites in the memoir writing process can be avoided by just composing a timeline of events, first. Experience tells me to avoid that confusion by being organized at the very beginning of the process.



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