10 Ways to Use Your Life Story in Nonfiction Writing

This evening I’m participating in a round table discussion on a teleseminar offered by the National Association of Memoir Writers. Our subject: the intersection between memoir and other types of nonfiction. That got me thinking. Lots of ways exist to use your life story in nonfiction writing besides writing straight memoir.

  1. You can use your life story as anecdotes or vignettes for a lead into a researched article. You can do so as the conclusion to an article as well. Plus, anecdotes provide great ways to illustrates the points you make in an article.
  2. Your life experience can provide the premise for a researched article; then you can use anecdotes to illustrate your points or simply as a lead into the piece.
  3. You can expand on #1 or #2 and write a whole researched nonfiction book based on your experience.
  4. You can use your life story as the premise for a personal essay.
  5. You can create a blog on a topic related to your memoir and write posts and publish them.
  6. You can take the lessons you learned during the events detailed in your memoir and write about them in more detail; offer how-to articles, advice columns, coaching columns, interviews with experts, etc.
  7. You can choose to write about a hobby or some other area of interest in which you have some experience (or in which you are willing to get experience), and then include your experiences in the book.
  8. Create information products that solve problems and include information about yourself and how you came to find the solutions.
  9. Create information products based on your life experiences — ones that would have helped you — and include your experiences (good and bad) in the product.
  10. Compose how-to-write-better articles using anecdotes about your writing process.

If you like writing memoir or using your life story or your life experiences in your writing, these 10 ideas should keep you busy for a while!


  1. If I’m writing a story about my past, [I’ve been in technical fields all of my career], can I use the names of companies I’ve worked in?

    • Yes, you should be able to…but check with Linda Joy at NAMW.org.

    • Hi Bev,
      You can use the name of the companies assuming you aren’t saying anything negative about them or revealing things you aren’t supposed to reveal. Those are the parameters to know about. Best of luck with your memoir!

      • Sharon, thanks so much for this help for all radrees! I highly recommend my partners on the call, Tracy Seeley and Linda Joy Myers. What delightful conversationalists and what a good set of questions came from the listeners. Hope more people can benefit from the recording. My own interest in and understanding of place has been enhanced immeasurably.

  2. Hi Nina,
    I picked up your book How to Blog a Book at the library recently and think it is great! I have just been inspired to blog some of my experiences with a view to turning it into a book with related spin offs. When I was locating some of your blogs to use as examples, my McAfee site advisor sent warnings about one of your blogs (nonfiction in November) I eventually found my way around this but thought you should have this feedback. I look forward to staying in touch with you. I will let you know when my first post hits the cyber-road. Cheers – Keith Budd/Vancouver, B.C.

    • Keith,
      This may be because of all the links provided by guest posters. No other reason I can think of. Thanks for the comment, making the effort to get here and for reading–the blog and the book.

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