Couple of years ago, a good friend of mine, an artist, came with a request to help her write a resume for an upcoming exhibition she wanted to apply for. Now, writing a resume is not such a big deal, but when you have somebody at the beginning of their artistic career (with only 1 exhibition) and this exhibition she was applying for, was supposed to be held in Louvre, then it is a big deal – at least for artists. And it has to be remarkably written, just as her masterpiece. It was quite a challenge, but I knew her for a long time (we grew up together) and we had to start from somewhere. Certain approaches we applied, eventually paid off (her bio was very much praised as her art) and these approaches can work for any type of biography – including that of a writer.
Beside some minor details about education and study field, I was not left with much to work with: only one exhibition behind her, so what do you write about then?
My first tip is:
- Mention the most relevant professional, educational, travel, or personal experiences: what is special about you.
It has to resonate with your audience and the occasion for which you are writing your resume (you can adjust and rewrite your bio according to the current needs). My friend, she used to travel a lot, was great admirer of history and architecture, so we included that. Same applies to writers. If you are writing non-fiction about health issues, than include your personal story. If you are writing a novel, give some juicy details what inspired the idea – you get the picture. Your biography has to look and sound both human and professional and the trick is to find the balance between the two. Once again, it’s about pulling in the details which will resonate with your readers/editors and which fit adequately with the topics you’re writing about.
- Always ask someone who knows you very well about your qualities, skills, what distincts you from other people and include that in your bio.
We tend to be very subjective and overly critical. Observations from other people can be very helpful.I knew that my friend is very skilled with hands, for example (she could make anything you imagine), so I emphasized her knowledge of work with materials, tools, experimenting with textures and colors. Around that we carefully crafted a short story that was about the work she was submitting. And at the end it turned out very well.
Also, she had a lot of pieces that she developed in free time, but never seen the eyes of the public. So, the second thing we did, we developed a basic website where we published the pictures of her other work as well. We included the link in the biography so she could showcase the spectrum of her work – not only sculptures, but sketches, oil paintings, everything that represented her and her work. That contributed to her uniqueness and artistic individuality.
The same can apply to writers:
- If you are not already a published writer, build a basic website or blog where you can showcase excerpts of your writings (you reading this probably already have a blog) so try to reorganize your blog to showcase your best work and include the link in your bio.
Also, if you haven’t published anything yet, it’s hard to get reviews and testimonials. What you can do:
- Use the comments that people leave you on your website and social media as a testimonial. I’ve seen many writers – entrepreneurs doing exactly that, and it’s paying off.
- If you are part of any writing/literally organization, group (even forum) – list that in your bio, as it adds to your credentials. Another plus in an editor’s eyes is your affiliation with writers’ organizations. If you are not, join one! My friend was a member of national artistic network and that detail added to her professionalism.
Now, some technical stuff:
- Always write in third person. It kind of makes it easier to talk about yourself and your achievements. You should give it a try.
- Keep it short.
Editors, committees, even your readers don’t have much time to read a novel in your biography. Try to be concise, yet informative.
- The opening line should be straightforward and meaningful (in simple words telling who you are): if your degree is relevant, then note it.
This is where you captivate your reader (editor). You have to introduce yourself and this is usually the turning point. Never start with personal details – it will just make you look unprofessional.
For the end, apply this trick: read your bio out loud. How does it sounds, feel? You will know you nailed it, when it simply feels right!