Tips on How to Write an Autobiography

w31. Write for the Best Reasons

Understand the reason you want to write an autobiography. It may be to give as a gift to your family, to preserve your own legacy, or to understand your life and share the experiences that shaped you with a wider readership.

2. Read other Autobiographies

Read autobiographies written by people who can tell a good story. Ask your local library and friends for suggestions. One of the best people to ask is your local bookseller. When you read these books look at how the story is structured and if the narrative holds your interest make notes on how the author does this.

3. Who is your Audience?

If you are writing an autobiography, you should know your intended readership before you start. Who will read your story? Perhaps your family and friends or you may be hoping for publication and that your story will go viral across social media. This will require a more professional approach so edit the manuscript carefully or employ a professional editor for both structural and line edits.

4. Write an Outline and a Timeline

You might want to start at your birth and continue in linear fashion or you might prefer to skim over your early years and start at some important event in your life. You may want to focus on some particular skill you have such as writing, acting, or singing and this becomes the theme of your autobiography. You may want to include your family background and culture. An outline is the best way to discover how you want to write your story. A timeline is necessary as your memory of the dates of important events in your life may be unreliable and family and friends can inadvertently give you misinformation about dates if you interview them. This includes dates for births, deaths and marriages which should be checked carefully against any original documents available to you.

5. What to Include

Pull out all those old photos, or print the ones you may need from your computer. Emails or letters you have saved may be helpful too. Your diaries, journals, awards, favourite books and any movies you have enjoyed can be helpful. Everybody has stories to share so interview older family members and ask their permission to include these stories in your autobiography. If you don’t know where family photos were taken they may be able to tell you. It is amazing how viewing a photograph will bring back memories that lead to other stories. Make sure to document each photograph with the date it was taken, who took the photo and the subject, and where it was taken.