Saturday, April 29, 2017

5 Tips for Writing a Biography // Guest Post by Ivy Rose

Introducing the wonderful Ivy Rose! If you haven't read her books or visited her website, you must do so! Hopefully this awesome post on biography will peak your curiosity about the books she has written. ;) They're really great!
The first thing that came to my mind when I considered writing a novel based on the lives of my ancestors was: “there is absolutely no way I can do this.” I mean...honestly! Writing a book is overwhelming enough without the added concern of making everything historically accurate. The perfectionist in me had an anxiety attack at the mere idea.

I think we all know that many writers struggle with perfectionism. Some have it worse than others. *raises hand* The nice thing about this universal problem is the hundreds of blog posts available on how to combat it. (THIS is one of my favorite posts.) Writer’s perfectionism must die for many reasons, but especially for anyone who wants to write a biography/memoir.

But aside from the problem of perfectionism, how on earth does one even go about writing a biography/memoir?!? While far from an expert, I do have some firsthand experience (reality check: firsthand nightmare) writing a family biography. I made a lot of mistakes. A LOT. To save you the hassle of making the same mistakes I did, let me share a few tips from what I learned.


Decide what “feel” the book will have. Is it going to be a traditional biography with very little dialogue, a lot of “telling,” and distancing the reader from the characters? (Something like the YWAM Heroes of the Faith books) Or is it going to be more like a based-on-real-life historical fiction? (Think the Little House books.) It’s important to figure this out before you start writing because it will impact what kind of research you do.


Keep all flat paper files in one place. (memoirs, notes, letters, pictures, etc.) The system will vary from person to person, but come up with one that you can function within. Some examples are a small filing case; a box with the different things organized into files; a binder broken into segments. Whatever works best with your brain.


Write character detail sheets. No, I’m not talking about the ordinary detail sheets for normal novels that help you remember the character’s eye color, hair color, pet peeves, favorite outfit, etc. I’m talking about a sheet of real, historical information for each character. Things like date/place of birth, date/place of marriage, date/place of death, final resting place/cemetery (this is sometimes challenging to find, but it can be super helpful), parents’ names, siblings’ names, children’s names, etc.


Visit locations. If at all possible, try to find places where you can stand in the same places your ancestors did. Try to find out where the old homesteads were. Find grounds of the general store, the church, the cemetery. Not only is this beneficial for descriptions, but it’s a mental game. It’s more about taking the time to feed your creativity and fueling imagination than about getting a description “right.”


Enjoy the process!! Is it going to be stressful? Yep. More so than with another entirely-fictional novel? Definitely. But remember, just because the process is different doesn’t make it bad.

Circling back to perfectionism. Above everything else, remember this: No matter how much research you do, you will never be 100% accurate.

Just accept it. You can’t be perfect. We live in a fallen world. No matter how much time we spend researching trying to get everything all together, perfection is unattainable.

So why waste time and energy trying? Loosen up. Enjoy the story you’re telling. Enjoy the freedom to fill in spaces where there are holes in your research. *glares at myself*


What are your experiences researching family history?

Have you ever considered writing a novel about your ancestors?


  1. This is so interesting! Learning about my history and lineage is something that has always intrigued me... glad there's a post on the Internet now to help me with not just myself but possibly my characters (?!) as well!

    - Andrea at A Surge of Thunder

    1. Thanks for reading, Andrea! I'm glad you enjoyed it. :)

  2. I've actually already written a biography in my life.

    But it was for a writing class, the person I was writing it on is alive, and most of it was written in her voice from an interview I did with her. So...yah, it was quite different than this post's kind of biography.

    I think it's really cool that you've already written a biography, Ivy Rose! That's really impressive. :)

    1. How neat that you've already written a biography! All biographies are challenging, no matter what the style is.

      Hehe...impressive or insane. I'm putting my vote on the latter. ;)

      Thanks for reading!

    2. Yeah, it was one of the hardest papers I've ever written...the process was long and insane.

      Haha, yes, you definitely have to be a little bit insane to take on such a crazy challenge.

      Hey, are you the author of A Time To Die? I've been seeing posts about it around the blogosphere recently (okay not really recently, but I go back and read older posts) and now I really want to read it.

    3. I wish I was the author of A Time to Die, but I'm not. That series is written by my amazing friend, Nadine Brandes. And YES THE BOOKS ARE AMAZING YOU HAVE TO READ THEM!

    4. Oh okay, I'll have to see if any of my friends have them so I can borrow em and read the things. :D

    5. Wait! I meant Left To Die which I just saw is your published novella. That's the one I heard about and wanted to read. I legit need this one in my life, it looks so good. Can't believe I'm talking to an actual published author!! *squeals*

    6. Ah, yes, I did write Left to Die. :) I hope you enjoy it!'re too sweet and totally made my day. To be honest, published authors are just normal people and most of the ones I know don't look at themselves as anything special. They just happened to write a story and put it into the form of a book. :)


      Aw, I'm so glad that I could make your day. I know how good a nice comment can feel. 😊

  3. This is a great post! I've yet to consider a family history, though stories of my family have definitely inspired and intrigued me. I don't know about writing a story based off my family's history, but there were some pretty cool people in my family tree, so we'll see. :)

    1. You should do a family history, Kellyn!!!! The things I discovered were pretty amazing. Such as we're decedents of Canadian royalty??? Who would have guessed....

      Thanks for reading!


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