Predictions for publishing and PR 2013

Writing about yourself … the pros and the cons.

Whether you’re a journalist, novelist or simply a blogger, you will at some point have to make a decision – should you write about yourself or your own experience?

Writing about yourself...
Writing about yourself can get your message across
Here we look at the good things and the bad …as well as giving some tips…

The good points

* Writing about yourself can seem the most natural thing in the world. After all, no-one knows you better than you and what is writing about if it isn’t to put your head above the parapet and get a point of view across?

* Getting something off your chest can be extremely cathartic. Starting up a blog about something close to your heart – whether it be your struggle through postnatal depression or how you survived divorce – can give you a focus at a time of your life when you need something to concentrate on. It might also give you a huge sense of satisfaction that confiding your own experiences will be helping others.

* Talking about your own experience, a point of view or a relationship can be a fantastic way to to break into professional journalism. Real life confessionals such how you yearned for a son after four daughters or how an affair brought you and your husband closer are often sought after by features editors of national newspapers and magazines. They can be a great way to get noticed by an editor. Plus you won’t let yourself down – after all, you will be there, on time, ready for your photoshoot!

* Writing a novel can be easier if you base it on your own true experience and emotions. If you have been through an unusual and interesting life experience, it can even be a great subject for a saleable book.

* Penning a personal article can be a great way to gain publicity. Even if you’ve written a fiction book, if there is a story behind it that sparked your book, it can be a good way to publicise it. Read here about how one woman sold the story behind her book to gain publicity for it.

* If you are very successful writing about yourself, you can make a name for your blog or yourself. You might even be asked to write many more articles or even given your own page if you demonstrate you are able to consistently come up with interesting first person pieces. In the far future, it could ultimately lead to you being asked to guest on TV chat shows or reality TV shows.

The drawbacks

* It can be hard to blog or write an article about yourself without involving others. Your husband or partner, children and even friends and parents may find themselves unwittingly being dragged into your features. They might say they are fine with it – until that article is published and someone mentions it unkindly at your husband’s work or teases your child at school. If you continually write about them and your relationships with them, you also risk them feeling used – and wondering (or worrying) what you are going to write about next…

* As most articles do reach the internet these days, it could well be there on a Google search for good. So if you blog about how you hated your child as a baby, your child might grow up and be very upset. He or she might not be as understanding as you imagine about it. A good example of this is author Julie Myerson. When she was unmasked as the writer penning Living with Teenagers, it caused a public row with her son Jake. And don’t kid yourself that if you change names people won’t guess it’s you. Even if as Julie Myerson did, you blog anonymously it is likely those closest to you will know it’s you.

Tips for writing your own pieces.

* Articles about yourself for mainstream magazines and newspapers might need to be fairly sensational to work. Long gone are the days when simple little pieces about being a good mum cut it. You will need to come up with original ideas, be prepared to dig deep into your own emotions and be forthright and decisive with your views. The national press and women’s magazines are not for articles about sitting on the fence – editors want strong first person essays on previously taboo subjects that will surprise readers and spark debate. Think Liz Jones or Samantha Brick if you want to be writing personal pieces for the national press. And in this competitive industry there’s no room for anonymous bods – so be prepared to stand up your piece with your name and photo.

* Writing about yourself is different to having someone write about you. The fact you begin your piece with ‘I’ means the reader expects you to reveal more than you might do if for example, you were being interviewed by a journalist. And don’t forget you can’t blame anyone else if you get the tone of your book or article wrong and don’t come over as you wish.

* Don’t expect everyone to approve of you writing about yourself. Some people will always believe everything should be kept private and they might well be friends of yours, people you least expect, who think revealing something publicly is wrong.

* Likewise, be prepared for public criticism. It’s easy to think others will empathise with how we feel. Which is why, having written a piece, some writers feel affronted when they come under fire. But if you write a view or blog about your experience, expect that at least one person will not agree with you, and some people might be very critical of you indeed. If you publish any sort of writing, especially if it is a controversial or strong view, you need to grow a thick skin and not take criticism from people personally. And remember, a good article is one that does provoke debate. At least you will have got people thinking, so it will be a successful piece…

Are you a blogger, writer or novelist who pens personal pieces? What problems have you come up against and how do you cope with them? Let us know below…

Alison Smith-Squire

Alison Smith-Squire is a writer, journalist and media agent selling exclusive real life stories to newspapers, magazines and TV. She owns the sell my story website Featureworld.co.uk, which was set up to help ordinary people sell their stories to the press.

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