Friday, August 12, 2011

Writing a bio

A week ago, I blogged about what you should have put together before you start querying agents. One of those is a bio. If writing your own bio freaks you out, you're not alone. When I first started writing them, they really intimidated me. It felt weird to talk about myself in third person, and I had a hard time gauging what was important and what wasn't. But bios are a valuable and necessary art form if you're hoping to get published, and once you get used to them, they're not so bad.

Let's start with a few pointers. Bios should be written in third person, especially if this is something you're putting in your book proposal. They should reflect who you are and why you are qualified for whatever it is your bio is being applied to. By which I mean, why you're qualified to write your blog or write your manuscript or be speaking on such-and-such.

This is where youth can be a drawback. Because - to put it frankly - you haven't really done much yet. My bio when I went to the American Christian Fiction Writers conference in 2007 was "Stephanie Morrill lives in Orlando, Florida. She is a member of ACFW." Now, I could have written a better bio, had I received a few tips about it, but being a member of ACFW was about all I had to my name at that time. I couldn't even put a college degree on there.

Here are some options for what you can put in a bio as an unpublished writer:

  • What you write
  • Why you write it
  • Any awards you might have won for your writing or articles you may have had published.
  • Your blog
  • Any special education you have (college degree or whatever)
  • Something that qualifies you to write this book (if you're writing about missionaries in Africa and you were raised in Africa by missionaries, you should mention that.)
  • A few things you're passionate about, particularly if they're unusual
  • Any writing societies you're a member of

So what does that look like? Here's an example using a character of mine, who happens to be a high school girl trying to get her manuscript published:

Gabrielle Hoskins lives in Visalia, California though often fantasizes about being born in a different time and place. This is probably why she writes medieval romances for teens. She is a member of American Fiction Writers and blogs obsessively about her journey as a young novelist. She is passionate about indie rock, novels with strong heroines, and lattes with the perfect amount of foam.

Now, I spent about 7 minutes writing that so it's far from flawless, but it at least gives you an idea of what you can do with a bio when you don't have a ton of writing credentials to your name. I particularly want to point out that last sentence. I could say, "She likes music, reading, and coffee." But that doesn't tell you much about Gabrielle, because I bet you can name 50 people who like music, reading, and coffee. And the "novels with strong heroines" part also tells you a little something extra about what you can expect from one of Gabrielle's manuscripts.

Like all things writing related, if you want to get better at writing bios, it's a good idea to read lots of them. Clicking here will take to the page of judges for Go Teen Writers. You can scroll through those and see which ones grab you.

If you're feeling really brave, you can post your bio in the comments section and get a little feedback...

Have a great weekend everyone! If you haven't already, don't forget to check out award winning author Sarah Sundin's post from Tuesday and get entered to win Blue Skies Tomorrow.

15 comments:

  1. Thanks for this post! It was really helpful -- especially seeing your character's bio.

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  2. One of my all-time favorite bios belongs to Isaac Asimov. A taste:

    "Isaac Asimov was born in the Soviet Union to his great surprise. He moved quickly to correct the situation. When his parents emigrated to the United States, Isaac (three years old at the time) stowed away in their baggage . . . when he was twenty-one years old, he wrote the classic short story "Nightfall" and his future was assured . . . What was left except quantity? At the present time, he has published over 440 books, distributed through every major division of the Dewey system of library library classification . . . He remains as youthful, as lively, and as lovable as ever, and grows more handsome with each year. You can be sure that this is so since he has written this little essay himself and his devotion to absolute objectivity is notorious."

    I just so love this, LOL.

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  3. Wow, this is so helpful to me - I didn't know where to begin!

    @Roseanna - love that bio! :-D

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  4. LOVE it! Makes me want to read his books, even though I'm not a sci-fi girl :)

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  5. Here's mine -

    Jan Christiansen is a freelance writer, web designer, blogger, and author of Wake Up Your Muse - 1001 Story Starters for Fiction Writers, published by Written World Communications, and two devotional books, More of Him, Less of Me and Desert Morsels. Her work appears in Love is a Verb Devotional by Gary Chapman and in several online publications.

    Jan is the founder of Inspired Ink Writers Group and is a member of ACFW. She is currently working on her first novel, an inspirational story set in the small fictional town of Carter's Creek, Ohio. You can visit her at http://www.wakeupyourmuse.com/ and at her personal website.

    Would love some feedback on it and ways to improve it.

    My Blogger Bio reads: Jesus lovin', grandson spoilin', sock monkey makin', picture takin' Christian author/writer & blogger!

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  6. Great post! Love what you did in 7 mins. VERY nice, Stephanie.

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  7. Jan, I think what you've put together is really nice. Showcases your credentials very well. And I like having a different, more casual bio for things like blogging. Or, obviously, Twitter since you can only use 140 characters.

    Thanks, Martha! Always easier to write everyone else's bio, right? :)

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  8. great tips! And all the suggestion were really helpful :)

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  9. I need a lot of help in this area. I have won a competition and they want me to write up a bio!

    Thanks so much for these tips!:)

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  10. Bios are the hardest things to write, but with a little tweaking, they are never as bad as a blank spot. :)

    My bio:

    Rachelle Rea has been writing since she first discovered pen and paper. She is a college sophomore studying Communications while living in Charleston, South Carolina. *Undisclosed Title here* is her first novel, the first in a trilogy she is currently working on. Rachelle also writes for numerous online publications, fiction and nonfiction alike. Her heart remains dedicated to the power of story to transform lives and she is passionate about God having an extraordinary purpose for all of His children and His extending the invitation to embrace it. She is devoted to the craft of writing and devours information about how to improve how she wields her pen. Find out more at www.rachellerea.com.

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  11. Rachelle, you said it - a blank spot can't be tweaked!

    First of all, I'm way jealous you live in Charleston. I visited while in high school and looooved it. My suggestions are:

    Here "*Undisclosed Title here* is her first novel, the first in a trilogy she is currently working on" you use the word "first" twice, so I'd smooth that out.

    Also, I would specify what online publications you write for.

    But overall I think your content is really good. Tells us about who you are as a person. Great job!

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  12. So, I'm looking at a bunch of old GTW posts, and I stumble across this one... and now I just have to know. Gabrielle Hoskins... has become Ellie Sweet? I think so. Am I right?

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    1. Oh, that's so funny, Emily! Yes, you're right. She goes by Ellie in the book, but her real name is Gabrielle. The last name DID change, though :)

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  13. asdfghjkl THANK YOU SO MUCH FOR THIS POST!!!

    I've been seriously thinking over bios and stuff, and this post oober helped. In no time, I was able to jot this down:

    Paul A. Daly, a sophomore in high school, is a proud-ish citizen of Themiddleofnowhereville, Virginia and practically has no life beyond his imagination. Therefore, he writes fantasy novels that usually involve child MCs, an archer and a very structured plotline. In his spare time, he writes blogs, reads blogs, eats chocolate, and pets his imaginary cat. But beyond his apparent weirdness, he is totally in love with his Savior and writes for His ultimate glory.

    Of course, I'm going to put this up for some peer editting before I make it official or whatever. But I love it regardless.

    Thank you :)

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