There is nothing wrong, honestly, with writing from the heart so long as its has saleability. It's all about numbers. Not everyone wants to read about your grandmother's journey through life unless they are your family. You need to understand where your readers' interest lies.
Now if your grandmother hid from the Nazis, stowed away on a freighter, worked as an illegal immigrant, and finally married the man of her dreams, you might have a story.
What is required for saleability for a writer's work?
- A story with broad and narrow interest
- Talent and creativity with words
- A new angle ~ something unique
- Your family for one, but that can be a narrow audience unless you're like me and have second, third, fourth cousins with reading families of their own, a large extended family (my own equals over 50 of sisters brothers and their families), add in the aunts, uncles, parents, and in-laws. Mine is larger than most. On average the family audience is 100. Not much in book sales is it?
- Now your grandmother hid during the Holocaust. You add in the Jewish population that survived and their families, and WWII and history buffs. You see how the number grows?
- Stowing away on a freighter and becomes an illegal immigrant in the U.S. Now you have the action junkies, but you still haven't lost the above audience. I say audience, but I mean buying public and readers.
- Working as an illegal alien could mean she worked in a sweat shop, had real low wages and hardships. Again you have history buffs, and now her circumventing the immigration authorities. That's tension that may lead to confrontation. It's the ticking clock. Will she get caught or won't she?
- She finally marries the man of her dreams. That's romance in black and white. It's one of the largest markets in female readership. You've jumped from 100 possible readers to a million plus.
Think of the blockbuster movie "Titanic." Was there really characters named Jack and Rose aboard? Probably not, but the writer of the script enabled you to suspend belief and the actors to breath life into these imaginary characters. That takes creativity and talent to make the reader believe such characters existed. In writing you paint all the visuals with words. What senses were involved. The apprehension they felt. The rocking of the ship's movements. The smell of the salt air. The same is true about the grandmother.
Do you see the sell ability of the novel? Yes, it is based on actual events which happened during my childhood. Yes, it is fiction with fictional characters and events added in. With one novel I've hit the woman's, suspense, spy buffs, history buffs, and still could be enjoyed by men.
So write from the heart if necessary but remember saleability. If your are writing for profit, keep your eyes on your target market. If you do this your work is pitchable to an agent, publisher, or the indie market.