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Writing Life Stories for the Inspirational or Religious Markets


by Anne Hart



This article was first published by the The Internet Writing Journal in September 1999

It makes no difference what religion or spirituality essence you select, but writing a life story for the religious or inspirational markets is in demand and expanding its need for sharing life story experience in the form of books, stories, or featured articles and columns.  What the religious or inspirational markets are looking for is sharing what you've learned from your mistakes or experiences, how you arrived at your choices, and how you've grown and were transformed, gaining wisdom that everyone can share.


By sharing your experiences and life story, readers will learn how you made decisions and why, what wisdom you gained from your growth or transformation, and what made it possible for you to grow and change and become a stronger and better person. The stories you'd write about would be those universal messages we all go through, such as rites of passage, dealing with the stages of life in new ways, finding alternatives, and how you handled the challenges.

The religious and spiritual or inspirational markets want stories that give them pictures and choices and show how you solved your problems. The reason people read your story is to find out how to solve their own problems and make decisions. Give them information they can use to make decisions, even if you write fiction. Have some authority and truth in the fiction, particularly about facts and historical information.

People buy your story to make choices, including choices in the later stages of life or choices in growing up and making transitions. As people move from one career to another or from one stage of life to the next, they want to read about how you made that passage in time and space, and what choices you made.

Life story writing should be more preventive than reactive. Biography writing is reactive because it responds only when people are in need, in transition, or in turmoil. What sells is preventive story writing. Give transformation, growth, and problem solving information so people will be able to prevent making your past mistakes. Show them how you've learned from your mistakes and pass on your wisdom, growth, and change. Readers want to share your understanding.


Put rewards and possibilities for personal growth into your life story. Don't merely dump your pain and prior abuse on readers or your history of how you were tortured. That's not going to solve their problems. What will is writing about how you've worked at understanding challenges. Look at your readers as your future selves.

Approach life story writing as you would approach writing song lyrics. Pick an industry and focus on the industry as you develop a life story built around an industry or event. If you write about your own life story, do interviews. Interview people who have known you to get a many-sided view. You'll discover blind spots you would never have noticed about yourself. Treat your life story not only as a diary with a one-sided view, but as a biography. Interview many people who have had contact with you as you grew up or during the experience you're targeting.

Writing the Forward

If you write a biography of another person as a book, story or article, or as fiction in a novel, you'll need a foreword. This is what you're doing as you first meet the person you're interviewing. Have two tape recorders going at the same time in case one isn't working properly. Get permission to record. Write what you're doing as you first meet the person you're interviewing. It should be about 16 double-spaced pages or 8 printed pages, or less.

Writing the Preface

What is the person most conscious of? What is the individual whose biography you're writing doing right now as you first interview that person? What's the biography going to zoom in on? Describe the body language. In Andrew Morton's Monica's Story, Monica stifles a yawn and pulls on black leggings as the preface opens with the title "Betrayal at Pentagon City." The prefaces summarizes the most important event in the entire biography. It should be about 10 double-spaced pages or 5 printed pages. Is your character going to be the right person at the right time in the wrong place? Or the wrong person at the wrong time in the right place?

Chapter One

Either start with the person immediately becoming involved in the action if he is not well-known or, if your person is in the news and a known celebrity or royalty, start with the date and season. It's all right to begin with the birth of your biographical character if the childhood has some relationship to the biography. You can describe the parents of the character if their relationship has a bearing on the life of the main character you're portraying.

The less famous or news-worthy your character, the more you need to start with the character involved in the middle of the action or crisis, the most important event. Avoid any scenes where the book or story opens and the character is in transit flying to some destination. Start after the arrival, when the action pace is fast and eventful.


You can make a great career writing true story books about people in the news, celebrities, and the famous. If these are the type of books you want to write, focus on the character's difficult childhood if it's important to the story and the character is famous or in the news frequently. To create the tension, get into any betrayals by the third chapter. Show how your character's trusting nature snared the individual in a treacherous web, if that's in your story. If not, highlight your main crisis here in the third chapter.

By the fourth chapter, show the gauntlet or inquiry your character is going through. How did it affect your character and the person's family? How will it haunt your character? Where will your character go from here? What are the person's plans?

Focus on an industry or career, whether it be the world of modern art or computers to get the inside story of the people and the industry and how they react and interact. What is your character's dream? How does your character realize his or her dream? How does the person achieve goals in the wake of the event, scandal, or other true story happening?


Take your reader beyond the headlines and sound bits. Discover your character in your story and show how readers also can understand the person whose life story you're writing. It makes no difference if it's your own or another's. You may want to bring out your story's texture more by adding a pet character and focusing also on the pet's reactions to your characters.

For information on possible religious markets for your life stories be sure to visit the links to religious book publishers and paying religious markets on writerswrite.com.


Anne Hart holds lifetime community college teaching credentials and a Master's degree in English/creative writing from San Diego State University and a B.S. from New York University. She has written 87 paperback books, booklets, plays, articles, stories, and learning materials and focuses on writing biographies, novels, historical romances and suspense, autobiographies, diaries, and books on career development as well as scripts and new media learning materials. Hart has been writing books full time since 1959 as her primary occupation. Anne Hart wrote the paperback book, Winning Resumes for Computer Personnel (Barron's Educational Series, 1998), and cyberscribes.1: The New Journalists (Ellipsys International, 1997).


Here's a list of the titles of some other of Anne Hart's paperback books


1.   101+ Practical Ways to Raise Funds: A Step-by-Step Guide with Answers

2.    101 Ways to Find Six-Figure Medical or Popular Ghostwriting Jobs & Clients  

3.    102 Ways to Apply Career Training in Family History/Genealogy  

4.    1700 Ways to Earn Free Book Publicity

5.    30+ Brain-Exercising Creativity Coach Businesses to Open  

6.    32 Podcasting & Other Businesses to Open Showing People How to Cut Expenses  

7.    35 Video Podcasting Careers and Businesses to Start  

8.    801 Action Verbs for Communicators  

9.  A Private Eye Called Mama Africa  

10.  Ancient and Medieval Teenage Diaries

11.  Anne Joan Levine, Private Eye  

12.  Astronauts and Their Cats  

13.  Cleopatra's Daughter  

14.  Counseling Anarchists  

15.  Cover Letters, Follow-Ups, Queries and Book Proposals

16.  Writing, Financing, & Producing Documentaries

17.  Creating Family Newsletters & Time Capsules  

18.  Creative Genealogy Projects  

19.  Cutting Expenses and Getting More for Less  

20.  Cyber Snoop Nation  

21.  Diet Fads, Careers and Controversies in Nutrition Journalism  

22.  Dogs with Careers: Ten Happy-Ending Stories of Purpose and Passion  

23.  Dramatizing 17th Century Family History of Deacon Stephen Hart & Other Early New England Settlers

24.  Employment Personality Tests Decoded

25.  Ethno-Playography  

26.  Find Your Personal Adam And Eve

27.  Four Astronauts and a Kitten  

28.  How To Stop Elderly Abuse  

29.  How Two Yellow Labs Saved the Space Program  

30.  How to Interpret Family History and Ancestry DNA Test Results for Beginners  

31.  How to Interpret Your DNA Test Results For Family History & Ancestry

32.   How to Launch a Genealogy TV Business Online  

33.  How to Make Money Organizing Information  

34.  How to Make Money Selling Facts  

35.  How to Make Money Teaching Online With Your Camcorder and PC  

36.  How to Open DNA-Driven Genealogy Reporting & Interpreting Businesses  

37.  How to Open a Business Writing and Publishing Memoirs, Gift Books, or Success Stories for Clients  

38.  How to Publish in Women’s Studies, Men’s Studies, Policy Analysis, & Family History Research  

39.  How to Refresh Your Memory by Writing Salable Memoirs with Laughing Walls  

40.  How to Safely Tailor Your Food, Medicines, & Cosmetics to Your Genes  

41.  How to Start Engaging Conversations on Women's, Men's, or Family Studies with Wealthy Strangers  

42.  How to Start Personal Histories and Genealogy Journalism Businesses  

43.  How to Turn Poems, Lyrics, & Folklore into Salable Children's Books  

44.  How to Video Record Your Dog's Life Story  

45.  How to Write Plays, Monologues, or Skits from Life Stories, Social Issues, or Current Events  

46.  Infant Gender Selection & Personalized Medicine  

47.  Is Radical Liberalism or Extreme Conservatism a Character Disorder, Mental Disease, or Publicity Campaign?  

48.  Job Coach-Life Coach-Executive Coach-Letter & Resume-Writing Service  

49.  Large Print Crossword Puzzles for Memory Enhancement  

50.  Make Money With Your Camcorder and PC: 25+ Businesses  

52.  Murder in the Women's Studies Department  

54.  Nutritional Genomics - A Consumer's Guide to How Your Genes and Ancestry Respond to Food  

55.  One Day Some Schlemiel Will Marry Me, Pay the Bills, and Hug Me.

56.  Popular Health & Medical Writing for Magazines  

57.  Power Dating Games  

58.  Predictive Medicine for Rookies  

59.  Problem-Solving and Cat Tales for the Holidays  

60.  Proper Parenting in Ancient Rome  

61.  Roman Justice: SPQR  

62.  Sacramento Latina  

63.  Scrapbooking, Time Capsules, Life Story Desktop Videography & Beyond with Poser 5, CorelDRAW ® Graphics Suite 12 & Corel WordPerfect Office Suite 12  

64.  Search Your Middle Eastern and European Genealogy  

65.  Social Smarts Strategies That Earn Free Book Publicity  

66.  The Beginner's Guide to Interpreting Ethnic DNA Origins for Family History

68.  The DNA Detectives  

69.  The Date Who Unleashed Hell  

70.  The Freelance Writer's E-Publishing Guidebook  

72.  The Writer's Bible  

73.  Tools for Mystery Writers  

74.  Tracing Your Baltic, Scandinavian, Eastern European, & Middle Eastern Ancestry Online  

76.  Verbal Intercourse  

78.  Who's Buying Which Popular Short Fiction Now, & What Are They Paying?

79.  Why We Never Give Up Our Need for a Perfect Mother  

80.  Writer's Guide to Book Proposals  

81.  Writing 45-Minute One-Act Plays, Skits, Monologues, & Animation Scripts for Drama Workshops  

82.  Writing 7-Minute Inspirational Life Experience Vignettes  

83.  Writing What People Buy

      84.  How to Start, Teach, & Franchise a Creative Genealogy Writing Class or Club: The Craft of Producing Salable Living Legacies, Celebrations of Life, Genealogy Periodicals, Family Newsletters, Time Capsules, Biographies, Fiction, Memoirs, Ethno-Plays, Skits, Monologues, Autobiographies, Events, Reunion Publications, or Gift Books