Autobiography how to write

Contents

How to Write an Autobiography: The Secret Tips to Finally Get Started

Something unusual just might happen to you when you start working with your family’s photo collection:

You may suddenly get this urge to start writing about what’s happened to you in your life and why it meant so much to you.

And what’s even more surprising, you may also have an overwhelming desire to ask your loved ones to start writing the same about their lives!

Why Write Your Autobiography

As you organize and label your photos, especially older ones, what happens is you will start to put together pieces of the larger “story” of family members’ lives. Each of their lives becomes like one giant puzzle that you’re assembling back together.

At this point, I’ve found their “Life Stories” now either become more clear to you, or sometimes … much less. You may have thought you knew someone really well until you discover photos that show a whole other part of their life you never knew.

For example, I showed my Mom some photos that she hadn’t seen in a long time when we were together over the December holidays. And immediately, all of these stories just came gushing out of her. She would point to a picture, and then another, and tell me all about it and why this moment in her life was so important to her.

Fantastic, right!?

Well, all I kept thinking at the time was, “What happens when I look at this photo 25 years from now. I probably won’t remember any of those fascinating things you just told me about. Can’t you just write all of what you just said down for me?”

I greatly fear the time when members of my small family pass. In addition to the obvious emotional reasons, I am worried photos will not be enough to help me remember all of these important details. And it’s all of these great details that really hold together their complete “Life’s Stories.”

Is it unrealistic of me to wish we spent time in our lives now recording our stories to pass on to others we will leave behind later?

The problem with this wish is many of us have never written anything that seems to be this monumental. I mean, since possibly school papers, belated “catch-up” emails to distant relatives are probably the longest things many of us have written in many, many years!

And some people hire biographers to write it for them because it’s often perceived as being so much work. We’re possibly talking about an entire book here.

For someone who’s not an experienced writer, they might think writing down everything that’s happened to them so far could take a second lifetime!

Mark Twain obviously led a short uninteresting life.

His autobiography finishes up at only 736 pages!

How to Realistically Start Writing Your Autobiography When It Seems Too Hard

Not too long ago, I was having an email discussion back and forth with my Canadian friend Art Taylor. I was asking him what’s making him happy right now and he happened to bring up that he and his wife Alison had recently signed up for a weekly writing-group on the art of writing memoirs.

This of course piqued my curiosity.

Not only did I not really understand exactly what a memoir really is, but it occurred to me that something they were learning might help my family and me figure out that secret “instruction manual” to make this whole autobiography thing a lot easier.

The secret to this problem might just surprise you.

I’ve put together the highlights of our conversation below in an easier to follow article format. Art’s answers are in quotes.

What is an Autobiography

So a biography is an account of someone’s life written by someone else. We’ve all seen those massively thick books on someone influential in our history that an author has written about.

But when it comes to writing about our own lives, I’ve really only heard of two different types of books: an autobiography and a memoir. And between the two, I never really understood if there was even a difference.

Isn’t a memoir just a fancy emotional version of an autobiography that only famous people write?

You don’t need to be famous to write a valuable autobiography, family history, or memoir. Everybody has many stories to share with family and friends.

Remember, history may be recorded about only rich or famous people, but everybody contributes to the history of the human race in his or her own way.

YOU are important to yourself, your family, and your friends. Why not share your stories with the present and future generations, just you probably wish your family members had shared their stories with their future generations?

There can be differences between a memoir and autobiography, but the line between them can be hazy.

At least in my opinion, an autobiography is about the life of the writer (unless it’s ghost-written for somebody) and deals with as many aspects of that person’s life as he/she chooses to reveal.

Other people and events are incidental to the main body of writing. Particular attention is usually given to birth, marriage, and death information, along with highlights of many aspects of the subject’s life.

What Is a Memoir

At this point, I thought Art was going to tell me a memoir is just a condensed version of an autobiography. Instead of your whole life being written down in 500 pages, your whole life in a memoir would be reduced down into like 200 pages but cover the same information.

A memoir, while it can be highly autobiographical, is not necessarily so.

It might concentrate primarily on the writer’s memories of one or more aspects of the writer’s life, such as his/her travels; hobbies; career; nuclear family; a particular parent, sibling, or other relative or a close friend.

By definition, it basically deals with ‘memories’, regardless of what the memories are about. Birth, marriage, and death information might easily be excluded, unless the writer is deliberately aiming for an autobiographical story.

Well Art has certainly been more enlightening than Chevy Chase. That “Memoirs of an Invisible Man” was an entertaining film but obviously taught me nothing about memoir-ing!

So a memoir is more like what we think of as an autobiography, but really without any rules:

I could, in theory, write an entire memoir exclusively about the vacations and travels I’ve taken.

A different memoir could be written about my memories of family Christmas and other holiday traditions or about my accomplishments and honors achieved.

Yet another version could deal only with family stories I remember from growing up.

Still another version could be about my friendships with Paul and Dave, two of my best friends for well over 40 years. In fact, they could be the major characters in the story, with my memories of our activities together providing the continuity.

The “Secret”

By this point of the conversation, I was starting to feel very encouraged!

The missing secret for many of us who haven’t even been able to write a paragraph or two could just be in the idea that writing our autobiography or “Life Story” needs to start off as — A story, not The story.

If you are having problems writing even that first sentence, the problem is probably based on this ingrained understanding that you have to write about everything, or there’s no point in writing anything.

Instead, you could start small. Consider writing about just one topic or occurrence from your life.

Or, if you are still determined to be thorough, start out just focusing on one topic but take it through completion before moving on to others.

Topic Ideas to Write About

Art provided a nice list of possible categories or even “chapters” that would be an excellent starting point for almost anyone.

  • Birth to start of Kindergarten
  • Elementary School Years
  • High School Years
  • College / University / Other Post-Secondary Education Years
  • School Days
  • Turning Points
  • Special Occasions
  • Romance(s) / Courtship / Marriage / Children
  • Career / Work Years
  • Retirement Years
  • Family – Immediate (Parents, Siblings, Children); Extended (Grandparents, Aunts, Uncles, Cousins, etc.)
  • Family Tree Personal / Family Medical History
  • Friends and Acquaintances (school, college, work, social activities, etc.)
  • Hobbies / Vocational Activities
  • Sports / Recreation Activities
  • Travel / Vacations
  • Places Lived
  • Home(s) Lived In
  • Favourite Foods and Recipes
  • Holiday Traditions
  • Other Traditions / Customs
  • Accomplishments
  • Awards / Honours Received
  • Spiritual Journey
  • Personal Historical Timeline
  • Clubs / Associations / Organizations
  • Military Service / Volunteer Activities
  • Historical Event Witnessed or Lived Through
  • How I met ….. What’s important to me about …..
  • Why ….. is important to me. How and why I feel the way I do about …..
  • Why ….. is my favourite hobby / sport / activity
  • Favourite Photograph(s)

All of these topics I suggested will not necessarily be included in any single memoir. Some of the topics in the list could hold no appeal for you. They are just topics that many people want to include and the list is meant just as a suggestion of topics to write about.

How to Choose Your Topics

So how can someone decide which of these possible topics to include in your memoir? There are just so many that could easily be enticing.

I wondered, if someone isn’t careful to be selective, they may end up including so many topics, they might as well just write a complete autobiography — from birth up until the current time.

One way to help decide what to include and what to exclude is to decide who you are writing a memoir for and why it’s important to you to write it.

You might well choose one set of topics if you’re writing for yourself, as catharthsis or therapy but a different set if you’re writing to document your life for future generations.

Of course, the answers to these questions will vary from person to person, and possibly for the same person at different times of life.

Organizing Your Topics

So if you choose multiple topics, my next thought is how one would organize them.

How are you going to personally choose to structure the topics you have chosen. Will any kind of order be important to you?

The chosen topics might or might not be in chronologic order. However, the topics I do include I’ve decided will likely be pretty much in chronologic order, at least within each general topic area.

The general topics will also likely be in chronologic order where possible. If different topics happen concurrently, such as career and vacation travel, I’ll need to decide at some point which comes first in the overall story, unless I decide to write the entire thing in something like HTML for random access to any chosen topic.

This is one benefit of writing for a web site or blog, both definitely publishing possibilities to consider. The reader can choose to jump from topic to topic at will, rather than being stuck with the writer’s choice of sequence.

Why Memoirs Are So Exciting

This is obviously just the starting point in the process of writing your “Life Story.” But, I hope it at least fills you with optimism that any of us can write about our own life.

Not only do you not have to be someone famous to be worthy of your own book, but with the option of a memoir, you don’t even need to write about your entire life like most cover in autobiographies.

I love this now well-known saying from 2009 that was inspired by the portability and camera quality of Apple’s iPhone:

The best camera is the one you have with you.

~ Chase Jarvis (Photographer)

It makes me wonder if the best moments that have ever happened in your entire life, will someday be the stories you took the time to write down.

Have you ever wanted to write about your “Life Story”? If so, tell me about what you would like to write about and what you’ve accomplish so far comments below.

If you’re thinking about writing an autobiography, then you’ve come to the right place. In this article, we will be telling you all about how to write an autobiography – breaking it down and helping you along with the process.

Table of Contents

1. How to Write an Autobiography

So you want to know how to write an autobiography? First off, let’s start with what an autobiography is. Put simply, a biography is a book written about someone’s life. It includes all elements of their life, particularly featuring any significant events that took place.

The word ‘autobiography’ is made up of the two Greek words ‘autos’ and ‘bios’, meaning self and life. Put them together and you get a book that is a mix of who you are, and the life you have lived.

2. Memoir vs. Autobiography

Before you start any kind of writing process, it is important to know what kind of a book it is you are wanting to write. There is no way to know how to write an autobiography if you can’t distinguish the two. Memoir and autobiography are often plumped into the same genre, because they are both about someone’s life.

But they are two genres of their own. So here’s the difference:

It’s pretty simple – if the book is about the person’s entire life – it’s an autobiography; if it’s about one or two events, themes or memories within their life, it’s a memoir.

Knowing the difference will save you time and energy. It will also help you to shape and plan your book (if that’s your style).

You can always change your mind and switch genres, but at least you will know what you are doing and how both of them work. Whichever you choose will change a lot about your book – particularly the content you choose to include and the structure of the entire piece.

Memoir is the perfect platform to share your personal life experience, and you don’t have to share every other significant moment of your life. (A wise decision if only one really interesting thing has happened to you during your lifetime.)

Writing an autobiography is much different. While they are both to do with the author’s life, biography is more to do with what happened throughout your life.

That means all significant events from birth ’till now.

If you set out to write a biography and it turns into a memoir, this is not a problem. The problem is when you don’t know what you’re doing at all. This leads to confusion in the writing process. And a lack of professionalism outside of it.

3. Read

A great way to learn how to write an autobiography is to read. A lot. Reading other autobiographies will give you an idea of which direction to go in and how this genre is structured. It can also help you to develop your style and tone of voice, and to pinpoint which writing techniques you find most effective. All good tools to have in your writing toolbox.

Here are a few examples of autobiographies you might want to read:

  • My Autobiography, Charlie Chaplin (1964)
  • The autobiography of Benjamin Franklin, Benjamin Franklin
  • Long walk to freedom, Nelson Mandela
  • The story of my experiments with truth, Mahatma Gandhi
  • The story of my life, Helen Keller
  • The autobiography of Malcolm X, Alex Haley, Malcolm X
  • An Autobiography, Agatha Christie (1965))
  • The confessions of St. Augustine, Augustine of Hippo
  • Scar tissue, Anthony Kiedis, Larry Sloman

  • Open: An Autobiography, Andre Agassi
  • Persepolis, Marjane Satrapi
  • Autobiography of a yogi, Paramahansa Yogananda

4. When to Write an Autobiography

Experience and youth. Photograph by Ivette Ivens. Source: abcnews.go.com

Cellini (1500-1571) wrote one of the finest autobiographies of the renaissance. He stated:

“No matter what sort he is, everyone who has to his credit what are or really seem great achievements, if he cares for truth and goodness, ought to write the story of his own life in his own hand; but no one should venture on such a splendid undertaking before he is over forty.”

Cellini

Knowing how to write an autobiography can have a lot to do with your life experiences. This fact brings into question the age of the reader.

Many biographies are written later on in life, when experience has been gathered and there are many exciting moments to draw from. But this isn’t always the case.

If you are a younger writer and feel that your life has been sufficiently fantastic, or you feel a growing desire to get down all of the details of your childhood days, there is no rule that says you can’t. So don’t let others’ perceptions stop you.

Twenty-one-year-old Edouard Louis, for example, published a hugely successful fictional autobiography (aka an autofiction), The end of Eddy about his childhood and adolescence. So it is possible. Sorry Cellini.

That said, an older, more experienced writer may have an easier time writing an autobiography, simply because they have more material to draw from.

5. Theme

Like memoir, autobiographies tend to center around a theme, even though you are including many life events. That is because people tend to also be themed, in a way. Want to know how to start an autobiography? Thinking about theme can be a useful way in.

If you are a professional dancer, and that is the passion of your life, it makes sense that your book would also center around the theme of dancing and how you reached that success.

If you are ghostwriting for a celebrity, naturally they will be famous for something in particular.

The main theme, of course, is the person’s life. But that is not enough to sustain interest across time. So bear in mind a secondary theme that ties it all together.

If your theme or themes are relatable, then that will stand you in good stead. If you are not writing a glitzy celeb autobiography, then having a very relatable and original theme is more likely to find a readership than any other. Be careful not to choose and manufacture your theme, however. If you are meant to write an autobiography, you will likely already feel compelled to write about your life. So try not to put too much thought into it. Just keep it in mind, as it will keep you on track.

6. How to Pick a Theme

How to start an autobiography? One way is to pick a theme. And stick to it.

One way of picking a theme is to choose an aspect of your personality that you feel is awesome and make that your sole focus. Maybe you’re great at maths, for example. Perhaps you made it to the world championships on mathematics or something. That would be a story worth telling.

Another is to look at your philosophy in life and make that the focal point of your book. Showing your values throughout the book can inspire and uplift the reader as it can show a good example of a life well-lived. It also reveals quite clearly who you are as a person, without you having to explicitly spell it out.

A third would be to consider the things that are most important to you in your life and to make a reference to these as you work your way through each significant event mentioned in your book. (This works especially well if you are writing an autobiography for those who know you.)

7. Exceptions

You might also be wanting to know how to write an autobiography, because you want to share your story with your family. This is an admirable reason to write a story. It means that your family will always have a special connection to you through story, no matter what. It also means that generations to come will have that link to their own past and history.

From that sense, everybody should write one!

This kind of story can even be compiled as an oral history of your families’ history and lives, which makes for an extremely personal keepsake.

Autobiographies are sometimes written in short form, as essays for college assignments. This is a similar exercise to writing a full book, but in a condensed format.

Another form of autobiography is as an autofiction. This book is based mostly upon autobiographical content, but is also a work of fiction. This is an easy way of avoiding any concerns you might have about privacy. If you are wanting to distance yourself a little and take more control over the content, then this may be the way to go.

You can also consider other formats, such as writing an autobiographical graphic novel, which has the essence of cool written all over it. If you are an artist or have a passion for strong visuals, this is something to consider.

8. How to Plan

“Look for the times when your life changed the most, and when you changed the most, those are the times of peak drama in your life.”

Janice Erlbaum, The Autobiographer’s Handbook

An excellent practice when learning how to start an autobiography, is to begin by writing out all of the significant events in your life. These could be anything; from graduating college, to losing your virginity, to being born. Whatever you think is most important and noteworthy, write it down.

You can later play with the order of events if you like, to shake things up a little bit, but for now, just get anything and everything you can think of written down.

When considering how to write an autobiography, it seems to be the most natural of all genres to plan. This is because within it’s very construction there is a presumption of what it will be about: events in your life. From this sense, it is already set up for you. In some ways, this makes writing a lot easier. On the other hand, the risk that easy planning poses, is boredom. For the reader or yourself. The challenge then becomes, how to make these life events interesting and stand out. But we’ll get to that a bit later on…

Nb If you are a pantser (someone who likes to write by the seat of your pants) then you might want to skip this step. In all likelihood you have something in mind to write about, so just start there.

9. Writing Schedule

A schedule helps you to get things done. You will know what works best for you after trying a few things out. You could try planning out how much you are going to write by the hour (i.e. I will write for an hour a day, every weekday) or by word count (I will write 500 words a day). Be realistic and don’t overwhelm yourself. If you are too overambitious, you may find you end up not writing at all.

Otherwise, you could aim to write a certain section of the book per week or month if that works better for you. Because autobiography is so clearly and easily arranged into story beats (was born, had first pimple, dyed hair red etc.) organizing your writing by these events works for almost all writers, even if you are not a fan of planning.

Ask yourself the question, what’s the minimum I could manage on a regular basis? And be honest.

Everyone has their own writing style, including the way they schedule (or don’t schedule) their writing habits. So don’t ever let anyone tell you how you should be writing. It’s up to you.

10. How to Start an Autobiography

The blank page. Source: petersansom.wordpress.com

Well, now you have a list of important events in your life, starting to write should be pretty straight forward. If you don’t like planning, it’s even simpler, just pinpoint a significant moment in time and get to work! If you have a plan, all you need to do is start writing out a first draft of each event.

Next up we have a few tips and tricks to get you started.

11. Go Digging

While figuring out how to write an autobiography, you will want to have everything you are writing as fresh and vivid in your mind as possible. This clarity will translate onto the page and give your readers a strong impression of each moment.

To do this, you will be wanting to dig out any old photos of you and whomever you might be writing about, and begin filing things away for each chapter or section of the book.

You also might find it beneficial to interview anyone who remembers what happened. This can bring a new light on old events. Try using a recorder or dictaphone and typing up the best bits once you’re done.

12. Fill Up Your Senses

A good way to get into the moment before a writing session is to surround yourself with the materials relating to that particular event. Look at photos or listen to recordings from around that time, and jot down any thoughts you might have about them.

You may also want to listen to some music from the time. If you have any old clothes or keepsakes from the person, you will also want them to be around or near as you write. Listen to any interviews about the time or the characters before writing.

13. Write a letter

If you’re struggling to start writing, you can try writing a letter to yourself or to other members of the family from the time. This is a very personal way of connecting with the past. Remembering your connection to your characters will help your writing to flow more easily and mean you have material to draw from before you even start writing.

14. Emotions

Writing about certain life events is likely to be emotional. Say you had a car crash when you were younger, or had to deal with some maltreatment of some kind, this will impact your writing, and how you feel about it.

It can be a difficult balance. You need to care enough about your subject matter to write it. But you don’t want your emotions to take over to the point where style and the content of your book suffers.

While feeling impassioned by your writing, it is also important to be able to step back and take a second look at your viewpoint. This may take several rewrites to get right.

If you are finding it difficult, then consider writing out as many different viewpoints of the event as you possibly can. This will open up how you see it and may even lead to an inspiring revelation for both you and your book.

15. New Insights

One of the benefits of learning how to write an autobiography, is that, as you develop as a writer, new insights will likely occur.

So while emotions can run high, it is good to know that writing about anything difficult that has happened in your life can help you psychologically.

Dr. James Pennebaker, a professor at Austin Texas university discovered that students who wrote for just fifteen minutes a day over three days about difficult or emotional experiences had a better level of wellbeing. He found that going through the process was upsetting for them, but it was the new insights the students discovered through the process of writing, that led to their improved levels of psychological health.

16. Take Care

As with memoir, if you feel that it is too much to write any subject matter, always take a break and come back to it (or not). Your mental health and general wellbeing are always more important than a book.

17. Know Your Why

Make sure that you don’t add in topics or incidents simply to vent about them. Instead, get all your feelings out about it during your first draft, and then start with a fresh perspective. If your writing is only about venting, it will not interest the reader. You may come across as petty or whiny.

Instead, you will want to make sure you can see the benefit of sharing your experiences with people. When you truly know how to write an autobiography, it should empower and enlighten people and help them connect to your story, rather than reading like an unfinished diary entry. It is perfectly acceptable for it to start out that way. But by the end of your writing process, you should be confident in the purpose of why you are writing your book, and what kind of impact it will have on its readers.

Knowing why you are writing will keep you on the right track, and help you like a compass in the storm, when you are lost.

18. Tone of Voice

An important aspect of telling your story will be your narrative style and tone of voice. This completely depends upon who you are writing for and the purpose of your book.

If you are writing for your grandchildren, for example, you may use more simplistic language. If you are writing for a broader audience, then you may use a more neutral tone. Writing for friends? You might want to use more familial or colloquial terms.

This also depends a lot on what kind of person you are, and you will want your attitude and personality to be reflected in your writing. This should happen naturally, but don’t be afraid to write as if you are talking or to use a recording device and write up your account of each chapter afterwards.

Pro tip: Relax. You won’t find your tone of voice by constantly thinking about how you might come across. Just write as you think and your natural expression will do the rest.

19. First or Third Person?

You can experiment with viewpoint as you go along, but once you have chosen, you will be wanting to stick with it. Third person gives us the feeling it has been written by someone else. So, if you are employing a ghostwriter or are working on a fictional work, then this is a good way to go.

First person is the generally accepted viewpoint for most autobiographies, because it is your story, and you are the one writing it.

20. Conflict

As you recall the people in your life, adding in any conflicts, even if they are comical, will add to the richness of the book. Conflict drives drama, intrigue and interest. And that’s what you want, if you want your book read, that is.

21. Story Arc

The hero’s journey. Source: wildgratitude.com

One of the most critical components of how to write an autobiography is story arc. Like most genres of story, autobiography is no exception and will need some sort of an all-encompassing story arc. This is one of the main challenges you may face while writing this kind of book.

It simply can’t be a long list of events and then an ending. They have to all meld together cohesively in order to have some sort of an impact on your reader.

A story arc gives writers a structure, in which our main character aims to do something, and then either manages (or doesn’t) to achieve it. There are normally many obstacles in the protagonist’s way, and they must overcome them. Simply put, our main character must get from A to B. And you will need to decide at some point, what your start and end points in the story will be.

This ties into your overall message in the book. The great thing about autobiography is that it basically tells your reader who you are as a person.

You can start by making a note of your core beliefs and who you feel you are as a person before you begin. But don’t be surprised if, as you write, you reveal a value you hold that you had never especially acknowledged. This is a true gift to the reader, to leave them with your wisdom or knowledge.

Your philosophy can play a big role in the book, as it has likely led you to make certain decisions and can be featured and interlaced with certain events when your process of decision making was integral to the direction of your life.

22. Comedy and Funny Anecdotes

While you don’t want to overdo it on the comedy (unless it is a comedic autobiography, in which case, carry on!) a little comic relief can work wonders in this genre. It can lighten the mood and even make sad moments even more poignant. Funny stories specific to your family can add to the color of your characters, so they don’t fall flat.

23. Where to Begin?

Think about when you might want to start your story. The logical point to start is from birth, but as your writing evolves over time, you may change your mind. You may want to add some perspective about your life from before you were even born. Your heritage may also be a large influence on who you are as a person today.

Once you have written a full first draft, you can consider changing around the order. Editing in this way can make for a more dynamic and varied read. If placed in the right way, you can even add in a plot twist or add to the suspense of your book.

24. Consider Your Reader

Don’t rest on your laurels. This can especially be a risk if you are writing only for friends or family. Just because someone knows you, it doesn’t mean your story will automatically become interesting to them. It will likely make it more interesting than if you were a random passerby, true. But this is not something to take for granted.

This point can be ignored during the first draft, but as you begin to develop your story, it becomes an implicit part of the process.

If you are wanting your book to sell, this becomes even more important as the reader’s interest and word of mouth can mean the difference between a book being put down or another sale.

25. How to Make Events More Colorful

Once you have written the thing, you will want to make sure that it is an interesting read. Even if you are writing just for friends and family, they will want to be excited by your life. And surely, that is why you are writing this in the first place?!

So a few tips to make sure that each story beat pops with color is to:

  • 1. Keep a notebook with you at all times for when you remember particular details about a person or place. Details will always give your story more originality and color.
  • 2. Show don’t tell – this is always relevant to any kind of writing and autobiography is no exception. Try adding in things you saw, smelt, tasted or touched within the scene. Avoid making a statement and describe what happened in the moment, instead.
  • 3. Add metaphor or simile- when describing a character or a vivid memory, don’t just describe how it looked on the surface. Unless this is not at all your writing style, you can enjoy emphasizing how something made you feel through descriptions that include metaphor. (use ext link for how to use metaphor) For example, ‘she was as fit as a fiddle’.
  • 4. Avoid common descriptive words – words such as ‘nice’ and ‘good’ should be considered with great caution once you have reached the third draft of your book.

27. Length

Many new writers are tempted to leave in every detail of their life. But longer doesn’t always equal better – often it means that you simply haven’t cut out the parts that aren’t needed. So make sure you have your ego in check – don’t make your book too long just for the sake of it. Just because it’s interesting to you, does not mean every reader will want to know about it – family and friends included.

The average autobiography is around 75,000 words long. Much shorter than 60,000 and you might want to find other sources to write about, and any longer than 100,000, you might want to cut it down a bit.

28. Consider Privacy/Confidentiality

Much like memoir, autobiography includes characters who are real people. This means that some might be negatively affected by your work. So make sure to talk to those involved and to have an attorney at hand, just in case.

If you are unsure about leaving in their real name, it is best to give their character a pseudonym.

29. Editing

Both editing your book and getting it proofread will make or break it.

That means that you will want to find a professional editor to work with, who knows what she or he is doing. Ideally, you will want to find someone who is experienced in editing autobiography or memoir. Check that you have similar values and that you are both clear on what you are going to be working on, before you start.

30. Proofreading

Make sure that all your hard work shows. You can have a strong storyline and everything else in place, but if there’s a typo on the front cover, there is no way you will be taken seriously.

So, ask friends to check over your manuscript, or better yet, employ a few proofreaders to check it over for you. Don’t use the same editor to proofread, as they will find it more challenging to spot minute mistakes by the time they have reread the story more than once. A fresh pair of eyes will likely do a better job.

31. Autobiographies on the Shelf

The autobiographies in our bookshops today, you will notice, are mostly written by celebrities. This is because they often have interesting lives that we want to read about. They include incidents that we could never have access to otherwise, in our day to day lives.

And that’s what makes them so appealing.

Most people are not so interested in other’s lives, unless they have done something extraordinary. So if you’re thinking of writing something purely to try and get it sold, then you might want to rethink the genre you are writing in. We’re not saying it doesn’t happen that unknown authors sell a lot of autobiographies. It does. It’s just a lot less likely.

But don’t dismay, this is only a problem if that is the only reason you are writing your book. If it is because you feel impassioned to do so, then that is all the reason you need.

If it is for your friends and family to read, then you need not worry about big sales or landing a large publisher. It is so easy to self-publish these days on a relatively small budget, that you are pretty much guaranteed to achieve your aim.

If you are looking for a book deal, then you might be hard pushed, if you can’t say your life has an original element to it at all. If this is the case, consider writing a memoir, instead. There are many more memoirs written by ordinary people with extraordinary stories, than autobiographies. Because people love to hear about how ordinary people overcame the odds.

No matter what your reason, if you believe in your book enough to start writing the first page, then don’t let anyone stop you from writing the book inside of you.

So there you have it. Hopefully you will now feel confident about how to write an autobiography and ready to start. All it takes, is putting pen to paper.

Autobiography Essay Writing Guide and Tips

May 07, 2018

You probably think that if you are not Bill Gates of Mahatma Gandhi, then you have nothing to write about, but this is not true! Everyone is unique, and it doesn’t matter whether you are famous or not – you have a lot to write about, and we are here to help you do it! All practical hints you can find in the text below will help you make the writing process easy and exciting.

What is an autobiographical essay?

Every academic writing assignment is special in its own way because each paper type has a particular purpose and is aimed to teach students different things and help them develop specific skills, improve analytical thinking (if it’s analysis essay writing), examine the ability to compare things (if it’s a comparative essay) etc. It’s necessary to clearly understand what your task is about before writing. In our case, let’s see what autobiographical essay definition is.

When it comes to autobiographical essay writing, one should realize that it is the story of your life. It can be a part of an application for college, university or simply one of the college assignments. No matter why you have to write it, the general format will be the same in all cases. Despite the fact that you write a story about yourself, you still need to follow some requirements and build a good structure of the essay. As a writing assignment, an autobiographical essay has to be well-structured, grammatically correct and interesting to read. Our academic writing experts have prepared some useful tips for autobiographical essay writing. If you are one of those students who want to achieve only the best outcome – read our guideline, and we promise – the result won’t keep you waiting!

How to write an autobiography essay introduction?

The autobiography essay, as well as all other academic papers, has a basic structure which consists of the introduction, body part, and conclusions. The introduction is one of the most important parts because it is where the reader gets the first impression of you. A bland starting paragraph might negatively influence the rest of your essay. In other words, it defines the reader’s attitude to everything you mention further in your autobiography. In order to start your essay, you might first share a little bit of your background: what your name is, how old you are, where you were born etc. However, one of the best options to develop the introductory part is to dive into a significant event from your life. You can further expand the story about yourself around this “spine” by splitting it into the life before and after. Go for it – make it interesting! Make the reader want to read the whole essay in one breath. But, avoid such beginning sentences as “Once upon a time…”, “I was born in 1997…”, “Here is my autobiographical essay where I am going to share my life story”. Be creative about your introduction.

What is the best autobiography essay format?

There are several autobiography essay formats used in this type of academic writing. The traditional format covers your story from the birth to the present moment. Another kind is a memoir. Such an autobiography describes a specific part of your life. In other words, it focuses on one particular moment in a person’s life. Personal narratives or essays remind the memoirs, but they require more details. The author picks a specific moment of their life and extends the experience of that moment as much as possible by using dialogues and detailed descriptions. Other, less common for college students, formats are vignettes, graphic novels, dramas, and scripts.

It’s necessary to discuss the assignment with your professor and let him/her indicate which format they expect to see. After you know which one to use, you can go online and find more information about the specific requirements for the format.

What is autobiography essay outline and is it necessary to write it?

If you doubt whether you want to write an outline or not – we definitely recommend writing it. The outline is a generalized description of the whole essay where you include your topic, main headlines for paragraphs and their summaries, and conclusions. It tends to get chaotic when it comes to autobiography writing because you have a massive flow of thoughts, ideas and information about yourself which you want to share. If you don’t plan and skip the outline, you risk writing a poorly structured and unimpressive essay.

Tips for writing an autobiographical essay

Apart from the primary requirements you have to follow if you want to write an excellent essay, there are some other details which are crucial. Our experts recommend following these steps when it comes to autobiography essay writing:

  • Plan your essay. Think about the moments in your life which might be interesting for the reader or which taught you some great lessons and are worth mentioning. Sum up your ideas in the outline.
  • Define the purpose of the writing. Is there something you want the reader to learn from your story? Is there a specific purpose or moral you wish to convey?
  • Consider the audience. Depending on whom you write your essay for, the style can vary. Try to understand what your readers would like to hear.
  • Draft an essay. Usually, students make a few versions to see which one is better and then refine the one they choose.
  • Enhance the essay. No matter how well it might be written, there is always more space for perfection. Reread it multiple times, cross out the unnecessary information and add new, fascinating details, if possible.
  • Be yourself! People love authenticity. Don’t be afraid to express yourself, share important life moments. People will appreciate your sincerity.

Writing an autobiographical essay might seem to be challenging and complicated, but if you apply our advice and try to enjoy the writing process, you are on the right way! Choose among the most interesting autobiographical essay topics and go for it – you can do everything! You are unique in your own way, and your life story is beautiful with all its ups and downs. Be sincere, be honest and try to express yourself creatively. We believe in you!

Still think that it would be better to see an example of a professionally written autobiography essay? Not a problem for our experts! But, for such a task, you should give us as many details about that part of your life you want to highlight as you can. Only in such a case, you’d get a perfectly written and well-structured essay.

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Example of Autobiography about Yourself: How to Start [2020 Upd.]

5. 📈 My Ups and Downs

This part aims to show that you are capable of analyzing your experiences and that you try to learn certain lessons from them.

  • Of course, I understand that life is not just a bed of roses, and challenges and hardships are an integral element of life. Since my parents could not help me cover my college expenses in full, paying off my student loan has become an important challenge for me. I combine a part-time job and full-time study to earn my living and my education. I feel triumphant at the beginning of every month when I receive my salary and plan how I will spend my money.

6. 📝 Conclusion

In this part of your autobiographical essay, you want to establish the main lesson to take away from your story.

In other words, what’s important about your story?

  • I have come to believe that two main factors determine success. First of all is a person’s own determination and will to succeed. Are you ready to make sacrifices to achieve your goal, like working and studying at the same time? Are you prepared to recover after failure and proceed to your goal again? Without strong internal motivation, it is nearly impossible to become successful.
  • Equally important is the support of people around you. Being determined to succeed does not mean alienating everyone and stepping on other people in order to achieve your goal. On the contrary, success is about recognizing your weaknesses and accepting support from people who genuinely want to help you. For instance, if it were not for my parents’ support of my educational endeavors, I would perhaps not be attending law school today.

Would you call this student an inspirational leader like Nelson Mandela or Martin Luther King, Jr.?

In all honesty, no. He may be an interesting and nice person, but he hasn’t left such a mark on history as some other people have—at least not yet.

But can you learn something from his story? Most definitely.

7. 🎓 Autobiography for College and High School

This autobiography example is suitable for both college and high school students.

In case you’re still lacking the inspiration to write your memoir, you can always come to the writing experts at Custom-Writing.org who can help you structure and write your personal narrative. Alternatively, you can find some more interesting examples of an autobiography here.

And in case you’re still wondering how to write an autobiography, just keep reading!

8. 👨‍🎓 An Autobiography Template for Students

What does every autobiography include?

A theme.

Essentially, the theme is the main “lesson” from the autobiography—the important point that all of the events of your life come together to demonstrate.

How do you go about creating a theme?

There are several ways you can do it: by discussing a string of events or one event in particular (or even just one day in your life), by introducing a role model or an authority figure, or by talking about your childhood dreams and memories.

To make the task easier for you, we’ve put together a list of prompts you can use to signal your theme to the reader.

Simply complete these phrases, develop the ideas, add some specific details to your student autobiography examples and ta-da! Your A-level autobiography is ready!

9. ✍️ Phrases as the First Sentence of Your Autobiography

Use one of these phrases as the first sentence of your autobiography:

  1. I was born in…
  2. I was an active (or quiet, knowledge-loving, shy, curious, etc.) child.
  3. My childhood dream was…
  4. My earliest memory is…
  5. I am grateful to my parents (or teachers, friends, etc.) because…
  6. My role model was…
  7. My lifetime dream is…
  8. The most memorable day of my life was…
  9. One phrase that I will never forget is…
  10. If only one of my dreams could come true, I would wish for…
  11. My main belief in life is…
  12. I am driven by my desire/passion/wish to…
  13. The main lesson that my parents taught me was…
  14. The childhood hobby that most shaped my personality is…
  15. One event that influenced who I am today is…
  16. My motto in life is…
  17. My favorite book/movie/author is…
  18. When I was growing up, I always dreamed of becoming a…
  19. One thing I wish I knew five (or ten, twenty, etc.) years ago is that…
  20. My favorite childhood picture is…

Feel free to use this example of autobiography for students and take the effortless steps described above to complete an A-level memoir with ease.

Definition of Autobiography

Autobiography is one type of biography, which tells a life story of its author, meaning it is a written record of the author’s life. Rather than being written by somebody else, an autobiography comes through the person’s own pen, in his own words. Some autobiographies are written in the form of a fictional tale; as novels or stories that closely mirror events from the author’s real life. Such stories include Charles Dickens’ David Copperfield, and J.D Salinger’s The Catcher in the Rye. In writing about personal experience, one discovers himself. Therefore, it is not merely a collection of anecdotes – it is a revelation to the readers about author’s self-discovery.

Difference between Autobiography and Memoir

In an autobiography, the author attempts to capture important elements of his life. He not only deals with his career, and growth as a person, he also uses emotions and facts related to family life, relationships, education, travels, sexuality, and any types of inner struggles. A memoir is a record of memories, and particular events that have taken place in the author’s life. In fact, it is the telling of a story or an event from his life; an account that does not tell the full record of a life.

Examples of Autobiography in Literature

Example #1: The Box: Tales from the Darkroom (by Gunter Grass)

A noble laureate and novelist, Gunter Grass, has shown a new perspective of self-examination by mixing up his quilt of fictionalized approach in his autobiographical book, “The Box: Tales from the Darkroom.” Adopting the individual point of view of each of his children, Grass narrates what his children think about him as their father and a writer. Though it is really an experimental approach, due to Grass’ linguistic creativity and dexterity, it gains an enthralling momentum.

Example #2: The Story of My Life (by Helen Keller)

In her autobiography, The Story of My Life, Helen Keller recounts her first twenty years, beginning with the events of the childhood illness that left her deaf and blind. In her childhood, a writer sent her a letter and prophesied, “Someday you will write a great story out of your own head that will be a comfort and help to many.”

In this book, Keller mentions prominent historical personalities, such as Alexander Graham Bell, whom she met at the age of six, and with whom she remained friends for several years. Keller paid a visit to John Greenleaf Whittier, a famous American poet, and shared correspondence with other eminent figures, including Oliver Wendell Holmes, and Mrs. Grover Cleveland. Generally, Keller’s autobiography is about overcoming great obstacles through hard work and pain.

Example #3: Self Portraits: Fictions (by Frederic Tuten)

In his autobiography, “Self Portraits: Fictions,” Frederic Tuten has combined fringes of romantic life with reality. Like postmodern writers, such as Jorge Luis Borges, and Italo Calvino, the stories of Tuten skip between truth and imagination, time and place, without warning. He has done the same with his autobiography, where readers are eager to move through fanciful stories about train rides, circus bears, and secrets to a happy marriage; all of which give readers glimpses of the real man.

Example #4: My Prizes (by Thomas Bernhard)

Reliving his success of his literary career through the lens of the many prizes he has received, Thomas Bernhard presents a sarcastic commentary in his autobiography, “My Prizes.” Bernhard, in fact, has taken few things too seriously. Rather, he has viewed his life as a farcical theatrical drama unfolding around him. Although Bernhard is happy with the lifestyle and prestige of being an author, his blasé attitude and scathing wit make this recollection more charmingly dissident and hilarious.

Example #5: The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin (by Benjamin Franklin)

“The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin” is written by one of the founding fathers of the United States. This book reveals Franklin’s youth, his ideas, and his days of adversity and prosperity. He is one of the best examples living the American dream – sharing the idea that one can gain financial independence, and reach a prosperous life through hard work.

Function

Through autobiography, authors can speak directly to their readers, and to their descendants. The function of the autobiography is to leave a legacy for its readers. By writing an autobiography, the individual shares his triumphs and defeats, and lessons learned, allowing readers to relate and feel motivated by inspirational stories. Life stories bridge the gap between peoples of differing ages and backgrounds, forging connections between old and new generations.

Writing an autobiography essay can be even harder than completing an essay on a general topic. This issue is not so common but it can define the future of your education or even job because it often required as a part of application documents. Read this article, follow the instructions, and make your autobiography essay brilliant.

What Is An Autobiography Essay?

In general, an autobiographical essay focuses on you, your life, and experience. But this type of paper can be a challenge for students due to its “self-focused” nature.

  • As a rule, an autobiographical essay is an inescapable part of many applications for scholarships, universities, colleges, contests, or even job applications.
  • In fact, writing such essays means making a personal statement, which tells the reader more about who you are, what your personality and character are, and some of your personal experiences.
  • An autobiographical essay gives personal details. Moreover, it usually gives the details that you couldn’t include in your application, resume, or CV.

That’s why it is such an important paper. It is your chance to stand out and tell more about yourself.

Need help with an autobiography essay?

Steps In Writing An Autobiographical Essay

How do you write an autobiographical essay? As a rule, a student will have a writing an essay task similar to this:

“Tell us about a situation or experience from your life that either helped you to become the person you are now or demonstrated your character”.

Doesn’t sound too difficult, right? It is not that hard to complete this task but there are some important tips and strategies that you should keep in mind when writing your paper to make it more memorable and powerful.

There are some standard steps to follow in order to make everything right.

Step 1: Planning

Regardless of whether you have to write a winning scholarship essay or an autobiography for a class, you always have to start with planning. At this stage, you should define your purpose and goals, choose a topic, and make a draft.

  • First, you need to decide on what you will write about. For an autobiographical essay, you should choose a real story from your life that you care about and shows your personality. A good idea is to write about either a great accomplishment or a hard challenge that you have faced. Moreover, you have to define your purpose. This will help you to focus on the right things.
  • Another thing you should always do is consider who will be reading your paper and what your audience expects to see in your text. After this, you can start generating ideas for your essay. Try to use different techniques like questioning, freewriting, listing or clustering to find inspiration.
  • Finally, you have to make an outline of your future essay. Make it as detailed as possible to help you write it faster and not forget anything.

Step 2: Writing

Now you can start drafting your paper based on the outline you already have. How to start an autobiography? A good idea is to jump right in your story. Your intro should start with a memorable and eye-catching sentence that will immediately take the reader inside the story you are going to tell while stating its main idea. What’s next? Here are a few things to do next:

  1. Always write your autobiography in the first person;
  2. Use details to describe the background and setting of your story by making it very detailed;
  3. Do not make it too broad;
  4. Do not start your essay with a quote, unless it is significant for your story;
  5. Start with something intriguing;
  6. Make a smooth transition from the intro to the story itself;
  7. Tell what you want to tell. Once you have explained the background and stated your main idea, tell the readers what happened;
  8. Finish with a clear, engaging, and memorable conclusion. Tell why this story is significant to you, what lesson you’ve learned, etc.
  9. Your paper is almost done!

Step 3: Polishing Your Paper

After you have written your text, it is the time to read it to see what mistakes should be fixed and what things can be improved in your work. Here is what you should do:

  1. Improve grammar and punctuation;
  2. Ensure you have followed the right structure;
  3. Make sure you have included enough vivid details to make your text come alive, interesting, and memorable;
  4. Apply interesting techniques to make your essay stand out. For example, use a non-chronological order with flashbacks to make it more intriguing;
  5. Be yourself! Not being yourself is the biggest mistake while writing an autobiography essay!!

An autobiography is an essay that describes your own life experiences. You can discuss your life and different events that you have been through. We look at how to write autobiographical essays and what common information you can include.

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Autobiography Essay Examples

You can find inspiration from good essay examples! Start your draft like these students did.

For sure, I know that our life isn’t made only of fun and good moments. I also know that difficulties and challenges are both significant and integral components of our lives. One of my biggest and most significant challenges was paying off huge student loans since my parents were not able to help me cover all my university expenses. It was a tough time for me. I had to keep a fine line between full-time study and a part-time job to have money for my education and living expenses. There is no way to describe how proud I felt at the beginning of each month when I received my check and planned how to balance my personal budget.

There was another time when I made my parents scared. They were standing right there next to me, hiding what they really felt at that time. Trying to comfort me, when I found myself in the emergency room again was not an easy task for any parent. I wasn’t a calm child at all. I fancied myself a “stunt man,” the one who always kept his parents worried while giving them so many scares.

Autobiographical Sketch Outline

Preparing the outline for your autobiographical essay requires you to narrow the details you wish to present. Unlike a full autobiography, the main questions to answer should be related to a single snap-shot of your life. Therefore think about all the aspects that build into a central idea. With proper planning, you’ll have your thoughts organized and be certain that all the requirements have been met. Creating word associations is a great brainstorming technique to get you started. You’ll also be pleased to know that these assignments don’t mandate a particular outline, so you can be creative while organizing your ideas.

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Topic: Getting my first job

  1. Introduction
    1. Motivations
      1. Parents
  2. My Job Search
    1. Learning how to build a resume
    2. What I’ve learned in interviews
  3. What working experience meant to me
    1. Benefits of having a job
    2. Challenges of having a job
  4. Conclusion
    1. What I would do differently

While these tasks don’t require much research they do test your ability to explain details and focus on relative points. Since you’re entirely familiar with the subject, it’s easy to get off course and write a poor paper. If you need help with writing a winning autobiographical paper, our professional writers are up to the task of crafting an interesting paper that will get you a high grade. Contact us today to place your order!

When students are asked to complete an essay of this type, they are usually puzzled. They immediately think of Donald Trump’s Surviving at the Top or Richard Branson’s Losing My Virginity. Those are great biographical books. But this is not about a book as you’re just college student, after all.

Professors don’t teach how to write an autobiography. All they do is go through their lectures and leave everything else to you. So you’re left browsing through Internet, trying to find specific guide that teaches covering all steps.

This article is perfect formatting, structure and style guide on how to write autobiography essay of yourself. Plus, we’ll include an example of autobiography essay for better demonstration.

Autobiography Essay in a Nutshell

Let’s clarify: what is an autobiography paper, exactly? It’s standard essay about personal experience. It’s different from personal essay. It can be about your feelings regarding any topic, but autobiography format is focused on events.

But why do they demand it for college? You’re not writer or famous personality and took this writing class because you thought it would help deal with all those written assignments. Well, American colleges are getting more competitive by the day. They try to make education more challenging for their students.

One may also need to write this type of essay for scholarship application. In that case, it’ll be called personal statement, and you’ll need to link experience to studies. Explain why you deserve scholarship as student and person.

Read also: National Honor Society Essay Ultimate Guide

Types of Biographies

There are three different types:

Autobiography – narrative of someone’s life or particular experience, written by that person in first person. Diary of a Young Girl by Anne Frank is an autobiography.

Biography – narrative of life/particular event, which can be written by another author. Steve Jobs by Walter Isaacson is biography.

Memoir – similar to autobiography, but focused on writer’s earlier experiences. It may be about exceptional places, events, or people from writer’s life. Moveable Feast by Ernest Hemingway is memoir.

Step-by-Step Writing Guide

It is time for actual tips. You can do this! Just complete a plan and follow it precisely. This is how the process goes:

1. Think about Your Audience

This is the first level in any kind of writing: write for people who will read this essay. If it is for class, think: what do professors expect? They give some hints throughout lectures, be all ears? They have definitely told how good autobiographical essay should look like. And if you’re writing this for scholarship committee, think about way they select their candidates. What kind of story and style would convince them that you deserve this chance?

2. Choose Your Story

When you’re wondering how to start an autobiography, this is first step: choose experience. Good-old brainstorming technique is still useful. Take a piece of paper and list some most important things you’ve experienced so far. It may be vacation, first job, first swimming marathon, meeting with best friend… If you’re free to choose the theme for an essay, take advantage of that flexibility. When you have few ideas, choose most attractive topic and focus on it.

3. Complete an Outline

This is a standard paper. It should have an introduction, body, and conclusion. What will you write in those sections? Add some bullet points in template. They’ll serve as guidelines, so you won’t cause digressions while writing.

4. Try Freewriting Technique

Follow outline points and compose whatever you want. Do not go back at sentences to edit at this stage. Set yourself loose and complete entire paper. You’ll edit later.

5. Editing Step

If you want to edit autobiography essay yourself, take some time away from it. Then, go through the text, pay attention to logical order, gaps in information, excessive wording, and grammar/spelling. Do it perfect! For foreign students or for those who are not really good at grammar, hiring an online proofreading service at Edubirdie would be a smart idea.

Excellent Tips for Autobiography

Now that you know how to cover the process, use some extra tips that will make it easier.

  • Be honest! It’s easy to exaggerate things about experiences, but don’t do that. Readers will appreciate paper more if it’s realistic.
  • While figuring out how to write an autobiographical essay, it is easy to become rigid and boring. Usually, people omit details to impress readers. That’s not correct approach. This is an essay about you. So set yourself free while writing!
  • Maintain logical flow! Do events have clear connection when you talk about them? Can reader understand where actions come from?
  • Make it easy to read. Do not use “big” words, thinking they would make you look more special.

Best Autobiography Paper Example for an A Grade

It has been almost decade, but I remember that day as vividly as if it was yesterday. It was a day that felt like whole year. Sad, melancholic, rainy day in a country so poor that it is hard to describe. Parents unemployed. Son and daughter studying. That’s how most families looked like, and that was picture of my family, too.

I wake up early in the morning, ready to catch the train and arrive on time for that exam. But my wallet is empty. I don’t have money for ticket. My mother, broken down but trying not to show it, borrows money from her friend. So that her daughter can go take that exam. “She studied so much.”

Something brakes in me as I take money. Humiliated and infuriated. I get into that bus and can’t control tears and huge change happening inside me. This was that moment. From that day on, nothing was the same. I had to become more involved in my own life and start making changes. Not just for me, but for everyone around me as well. The thing that broke me became the thing that enlightened me.

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Questions Checklist for Successful Writing

Here’s a brief questionnaire that will help figure out approach to this paper:

  • What’s the most exciting event you ever experienced?
  • Is there a personal story you’d like to get out of your system?
  • What’s your greatest accomplishment?
  • How can you describe yourself as a person?
  • What’s your most powerful memory?
  • What thread of events brought you to this particular moment, studying at this school and taking this class?

Now you know what is an autobiography and how to write essay. If all this still sounds difficult, contact Edubirdie with ‘write my essay for me’ request. Our top-notch writers are available 24/7 to make it happen. Just tell us some things about your life, and we will implement them in a perfect writing an autobiography essay!

One of the greatest gifts that you can pass on to your children, grandchildren, friends, and loved ones is an autobiography. Writing the story of your life is not as difficult as it appears – we promise! In fact, you will likely be surprised at just how easy it is to create your own autobiography. Once you get rolling, one thought will lead to many others; before you know it, the words will come flooding out. Whether you’re an avid writer or an average Joe, you are undoubtedly the best person to tell the story of your life.

Create Your Own Autobiography

An autobiography differs from a journal, diary, or blog in that it is a connected narrative of the writer’s life. In addition, journals, diaries, and blogs tend to be written around the time that the events described take place. Autobiographies, on the other hand, are usually written after the fact. Of course, if you’ve already written about your life in another format, you can use your previous work within your autobiography. For example, you could insert snippets from the diary you kept as a teenager. Just reading your old writing could also give you ideas regarding what to include in your autobiography.

First Steps

Now that you’ve decided to create your own autobiography, your first question is most likely, “What do I do now?” Write. That’s it. Don’t concern yourself with grammar, spelling, or minute details. Just put your thoughts down on paper or onto a computer. Allowing yourself to write freely will help your ideas flow unhindered.

If you’re having trouble putting pen to paper, you might appreciate some writing prompts. Check out the New York Times’s 500 Prompts for Narrative and Personal Writing for some inspiration. In addition, make a list of major moments in your life, especially events that changed the path of your life. For example: romances, births, deaths, career changes, educational opportunities, moves, vacations, tragedies, and wars. Include both the good times and the bad. If you’re having trouble writing about a particular subject, try jotting down a list of details about the topic and then coming back to it later. Sometimes it helps to mull over an idea for a night or two.

Photos, Mementos, and Family Members

Photographs and mementos make great additions to an autobiography. If your pictures are not already in digital form, consider scanning them to include them in your memoir. Photos are especially useful if you’re planning to spend some time writing about important people or moments in your life. Even if you don’t include them, simply looking through the photos can serve as a powerful memory tool.

Your Perspective on Historic Events

You’ve lived through some monumental events. Write about how those important events impacted you and your loved ones. People always say that every American of a certain age knows where they were when John F. Kennedy was assassinated in 1963. Where were you? What about when the Space Shuttle Challenger disintegrated shortly after takeoff in 1986? What about 9/11? Intermingling these major events with your life story can add nuance.

Organization

You don’t have to organize your story chronologically. You could break it up by theme or simply write about major events. However, you may find it helpful to create an outline before you begin, noting what you would like to talk about and the details you don’t want to forget.

Final Thoughts

As you create your own autobiography, keep a notebook or phone with you at all times. As memories come to mind at unexpected and inconvenient times, you can jot down some quick notes so that you’re ready when you do sit down to write.

Rest assured that more people will read, enjoy, and appreciate your autobiography than you might think. And even if you don’t want to share your memories with others, simply putting them to paper can be a fulfilling experience on its own.

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How to Write an Autobiography

Have you ever wondered how to write an autobiography? You are not alone. Autobiographies and memoirs are one of the top selling genres in bookstores across the globe. The bottom line is people are naturally inquisitive and nosy and, while creating clever characters and enticing story lines is excellent for works of fiction, readers just cannot get enough of reading about the lives of other people. However, when writing an autobiography, it is essential to consider the critical elements of an autobiography, as you want a story that is not only representative of your life but easy to read and so compelling that the reader does not want to put the book down. So what should you include? Here are our five key elements of an autobiography or memoir:

Order Your Story

While it might be tempting to retell a story as you remember it, jumping backwards and forwards in time can get quite confusing. When you start to pull thoughts out it might be that they come out jumbled but you need to bring them into the correct chronological order. Whether you are starting from childhood – which is the most likely point – or having a more focused snapshot of a particular period of your adult life, try and keep it in order.

Speak in the First Person

Writing an autobiography is about you, so people expect it to be written in the first person. This means you would use ‘I’, ‘Me’ or ‘Mine’ when describing events rather than she or he. Naturally, if you are retelling something involving a significant person in your life, they would be referred to as he or she.

Define Your Characters

While this is a work of real life rather than fiction, it is still crucial that the audience understand how you fit into your family life and who the people around you are. You need to bring your characters to life as well as recall the events. Ensure you drop in key details about a person’s character and how they played their part in your story.

Where Are You?

As well as helping the audience understand who shared your journey and how they impacted what happened to you, it is crucial to build your location. Where were you when this was happening? From the significant details like the country you were born or grew up in, to the small details like the hunger-inducing and nostalgic scent of the Sunday roast cooking in the kitchen as you played with your siblings.

The Small Things

When considering how to write an autobiography sometimes it is the small things that breathe life into a work. It is entirely acceptable to tell anecdotal stories. If they form part of your memory and backstory, then include them. People are not looking just to read the significant events; they are keen to get to know the characters and what they did. Who they are, what makes them tick; and if that means telling a story about your childhood, that you may fear insignificant, don’t worry about it. If you feel it has relevance, include it. The colour of hat your mother wore to your cousin’s wedding is just as important as the time you pulled the neighbour’s child out of the pond and stopped them drowning.

Finally, what do you want to say to the reader? Do you want to leave them with a message of hope? When the reader closes the last page, you want them to feel inspired and moved by what they have read, so be sure to include your message to the next generation.

Recordalife produces life stories for extraordinary people, which means for everybody. We create these through an interview process carefully developed to create an amazing autobiography with all the key elements required and more, and printed into full colour hardback books and audio CD as a keepsake for themselves and their loved ones.

Autobiographical Writing: Most Common Mistakes and How to Avoid Them

Aug 28, 2018 · 4 min read image source

Writing an autobiography is exciting and challenging. Most writers would love the opportunity to write a biography on someone who has a great story to tell. As a writer, you have to be able to connect with the individual you are trying to capture in a book. The personality, the emotions and the experiences should be frozen in time. An autobiography is a little different because you are trying to capture the life you have lived.

There is no better storyteller of your life than you and it can be great taking a walk back through your life path. A lot of people do not believe that there is much of a story to tell about themselves. It’s easy to find biography writing services, but this one you would have to do yourself. You do not have to wait until a dramatic event in your life to write your autobiography. We all have different stories to tell and it can help others better understand who we are. There are some great autobiographies out there and then there are those who have a few mistakes. Once you understand what these mistakes are, you can easily avoid making it yourself.

No planning

No one can remember every event in their lives without really sitting down and planning. Make a list of events that shapes who you are, as well as those moments when you felt life was monotonous. It’s not about making up stories and getting creative, but rather about taking a trip through memory lane. See this as part of the writing process, instead of a wasted step. When someone writes a fiction book, they plan a story, but there is more freedom in the turns the book can take. With an autobiography, you can only cover events that actually happened in real life. Even if you want to just start writing, take a minute and start planning.

Writing alone

It is safe to say that you have not lived your entire life without having people around. It is important that you speak to these people. A lot of writers are so use to writing by themselves without much involvement of others. When you are writing an autobiography, you want to speak to your family and friends. It is amazing what other people remember, versus what you remember about your own life. Perhaps it was a story you told them or an event that changed their lives, but yours not so much. Writing a bio for work is a technical process, but an autobiography should be fun and interesting. Allow people to tell you what they believe should be in your story.

Rushing the process

Just like studying for an important exam, cramming is never a good idea. Do not expect to write your entire life down in one month. It takes a lot longer than that to capture who you are as a person. Unless there is a specific reason why you need to write this in a month, give yourself a year if you must. If you are 30 years old, you can’t possibly capture 30 years in 1 month. I love reading funny biographies of people that seem to have lived a serious life. It just makes them more human and that kind of perfection takes time.

Unimportant details

You do not have to live a life of constant excitement to be able to write a compelling autobiography. There is also no reason for you to add details that did not have an impact in your life. Leave the unimportant events out of it. Some people just want a thick book to represent their lives. Rather write a shorter version including only what truly made an impact.

Embarrassing others

This is your autobiography and not a biography of the people who were in your life. You have to ask permission to include stories about other people. Do not use your book as a platform to insult anyone else. You might not even mean for it to be embarrassing, but you still need to ask permission of those you want to include. Just because it shaped your life, does not mean they want it mentioned in your autobiography.

Conclusion

See this process as exciting and informative to those who end up reading your story. You can also write it up until the point you are right now and add to it as time goes by. Do not rush the story of your life and remember, your story is perfect just the way it is.

Writing Jobs: How to Make Money Writing Online in 2020

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Learning how to write a memoir might seem simple…

You may think it easy to jot down details about your life in a cohesive, entertaining fashion…but there’s quite a bit more to and this is where we see a lot of writers fall short.

Our student Nadine Blase Psareas sure thought so before joining Self-Publishing School.

The thing is, if you’re like Nadine, you probably don’t even know what you’re missing to take your idea of a memoir and turn it into something tangible and effective in aiding others.

Memoirs can be very complex pieces of work. It takes a lot of skill and craft to be able to write down intimate details about your life for others to read and learn from.

Which means learning how to write (and even publish/market) a memoir can be really hard.

But the great part?

Like Nadine, you’ll learn that writing a memoir is both empowering and rewarding, and when broken down into these feasible steps, it’s something you can learn to master in no time.

Which is exactly what Nadine did when she published her own memoir, Hope Dealers, with us, a journey of the struggles of addiction, health issues, entrepreneurship, and more.

Here are the steps for how to write a memoir:

  1. Choose your memoir’s theme
  2. List associating memoir memories
  3. Add others’ related memories
  4. Write your memoir truthfully
  5. Show, don’t tell when writing a memoir
  6. Get vulnerable with your memoir
  7. Make connections with each story
  8. Add the impact in your life today
  9. Put your personality into it
  10. Write a memoir you want to read

How many people can say they wrote a book detailing the most impactful moments of their lives?

Not many.

And by taking this leap and diving headfirst into your memories and entire life, you’re reaching new heights for yourself and you may even enlighten others by the end of your journey.

What is a memoir?

A memoir is a historical account or biography written from personal knowledge or special sources. It’s a book about your life, the lessons learned, and key moments that shaped who you are.

We all typically think of a memoir and cringe a little at the idea of a book about someone else’s life. But that’s not all a memoir is!

Essentially, this is a book written by you about key moments in your life. You bring your memories to life in order to touch on an overarching message others can learn and grow from.

It’s like the highlight reel from your diary (if you ever had one) about the experiences that shaped your life.

What Qualifies as a Memoir?

A memoir is unique in the fact that it covers your life’s events in a more story-like structure with an overarching theme or messaged written in.

This means that “how tos,” “motivational books,” and other topics don’t qualify as a memoir. Memoirs are very specific in the sense that it accounts for the entirety of your life with an emphasis on stories and impactful moments that lead to a great purpose.

Memoir Definition

A memoir is a historical account written with personal knowledge and experience covering the lifetime of an individual, usually with a greater purpose or message within it.

How is this different than an autobiography?

I know what you’re thinking, “Aren’t they the same thing?”

With so many genres and writing terminology out there, knowing the differences between a memoir vs autobiography, (AKA: works of writing that are basically the same) can be confusing.

They’re both about someone’s life written by themselves, right? Right.

But they do differ in a single way that really makes a memoir vs an autobiography completely different in terms of their end results.

A memoir typically covers one aspect of a writer’s life (or a continuous theme through memories), while an autobiography is a chronological account of the writer’s life.

For example, Nadine’s memoir touches on many parts of her life, but the core focus is to help addicts and those with several life struggles get back on their feet.

So if you want to write a play-by-play of your entire life from the moment you popped into this world to the very second you started writing, you’d write an autobiography.

But if you’re looking to share a profound message with the world through your own real-life experiences, you’ll write a memoir.

How to Write a Memoir with Meaning and Influence

Writing a memoir can not only be a valuable experience for you, but the impact it may have on other people is astounding too.

You have a life worth something.

You have experiences that led you to a very specific place in life, and you know what?

Others have undoubtedly been in your shoes before and will benefit from you writing a book.

Essentially, you can teach others how to get through what you did or even how to learn from their own journeys just as you have yours.

That’s the meaning of a memoir and its influence knows no bounds.

What are the Key Elements of a Memoir?

Writing a memoir can be difficult simply because it’s about your life.

Somehow, we find it too hard to put our own lives into words through a meaningful message.

How do you really sum up an accumulation of years and years of experience in only a couple hundred pages?

We’ll help you learn how to write a memoir worth reading – and sharing.

#1 – Choose the focus or theme for your memoir

A memoir isn’t just a list of all the experiences in your life. If it were, you’d call it an autobiography.

What sets memoirs apart from a simple retelling of your life is an overarching theme or message that others can take away from it – and that you personally learned from the stories you share.

Think about what you want others to take away from reading your memoir.

What will they learn or realize or gain from reading about your life? You can ask yourself those very same questions about your life to find the answers.

What have you learned throughout your life? What’s the number 1 message that your experiences have taught you?

Once you have that big, broad idea, the real work begins.

#2 – List all associating memoir-related memories

It’s time to do a little mind mapping.

Now that you know the overall theme and message of your memoir and what will set it apart, you have to connect the dots of your life to that core focus.

Here are a few areas to think about specifically to help jog some of those memories in order to help you know how to write a memoir worth reading:

  • Childhood influences
  • Grade school
  • Teenage years
  • First job/s
  • First love/s
  • Parents
  • Siblings/family
  • Friends
  • College/post high school
  • Marriage
  • Children
  • Grandchildren
  • Hopes and dreams
  • Aspirations
  • Failures
  • Successes
  • Regrets
  • Resentments

There are so many areas that have a direct influence over how you perceive life as a whole. You just have to do a little digging to spark some specific memories that can circle back to the overarching theme of your memoir.

#3 – Add others’ related stories

I know this is a book about yourlife but it never hurts to back up your own experiences with someone else’s – or many other people’s.

Knowing how to write a memoir involves knowing when your message will be loudest. And that’s often with additional stories from others.

Sometimes you can’t always get the message across if only you have experienced it. To get readers to relate, you might have to show them that many people experience the same thing.

One of the most powerful connections you can make to benefit from the message of your memoir is to show your readers that it’s not just you.

Others have gone through the same situations you have and came out with the same perspective.

This one requires some extensive research (and maybe even an interview or two), but possessing the ability to be credible in your readers’ eyes is crucial. And obviously, you’ll want to make sure you’re using their experiences legally in your memoir.

You can even interview family or friends who might see an experience you share differently than you.

Adding those details will strengthen your core message.

Here’s a checklist of what your memoir should include in order to “complete” and at its best:

Elements of a Memoir Details
Introduction A snippet of what your life is like now and why you’re writing this memoir
Core theme/message Each memoir should have an overall theme or message that one can take away when they’ve finished reading.
Honesty Writing a memoir without honesty will come across on the pages. Readers will be able to tell and will be pulled out of the book because of this.
Entertainment value Nobody wants to read a memoir that’s written like a textbook. Create entertainment value through the stories you tell.
Supporting stories Because you have an overall theme, it needs supporting stories from your life to back it up.
Intriguing writing Once again, a memoir is still a book and therefore, it cannot read like a textbook. Great writing is necessary for a great book.
Overall arc Your life has an arc and your memoir’s purpose is to show this through lessons learned from start to end.

#4 – Write truthfully

One of the hardest parts about writing a memoir is the fact that we tend to be a wee bit biased with ourselves.>

*Gasp* You don’t say!

It’s true. Nobody really likes to admit their faults.

It’s one thing to recognize when you were wrong in life, it’s another to actually write it down for the world to see.

It’s hard. We want everyone to see the best version of ourselves and therefore, we leave out details or flat out lie to seem “better” in their eyes.

But that’s not what makes a good memoir.

In order to learn how to write a memoir that really touches people in deep, emotional ways, you have to learn to be honest.

#5 – Show, don’t tell in your memoir writing

No, this doesn’t mean you have to write a picture book. That’s not what “show” means in this case.

When it comes to creating intrigue with your writing – and trust me, you want to do this, especially for a memoir – you have to write by showing, not telling.

For the sake of brevity, I’ll just give you an overview of this writing technique, but if you’re interested in mastering the ability to pull readers in, you can check out this detailed explanation.

Essentially, showing versus telling is the way in which you describe your experiences with an emphasis on emotion.

But that doesn’t mean you should write down every feeling you had during a specific time. In fact, that’s what you want to avoid.

We’ll cover this in more detail below, but here’s a great video outlining this method ↓

#6 – Get vulnerable

Memoirs are not a time to distance yourself from your inner feelings.

Quite the opposite, actually.

It’s time to dig deep and show the world what kind of author you are through your life experiences by getting vulnerable.

Open yourself up to the truth behind who you are today. If you shield yourself in any way, it’s going to be obvious on the pages of your memoir and therefore, not as effective.

At first, you may want to cringe while writing certain memories but after a few days, you’ll find it easier to share your truth.

And best of all? You’ll be happy you did.

#7 – Make connections with each story

You have your focus, right? Having that overarching message is going to help you tie all of your memories together in a cohesive manner.>

Each story you tell – whether it’s yours or someone else’s – has to connect to your focus in order for that theme to come across to your readers.

But they don’t all have to directly relate to your focus.

Some experiences may have led you to moments of realization that then led you to other events that tie into the main message you want others to gain from reading your memoir.

Think of it this way: you want to connect the dots so by the time the reader is finished, the message comes full circle.

#8 – Talk about how everything affects your life today

Usually, writing a memoir is about looking back on your life and determining how you made it to who you are today. What events lead to the very core of who you are >right now?

That means your memoir will include inside peeks into your life as you live it now.

Each chapter should bring your readers back to your present-day life and how each memory affected where you are today.

#9 – Put your personality into the memoir

Nobody wants to read a stiff retelling of your life.

I’m sorry, but I’m not really. I’m here to help. And that means I have to be real with you and tell you that people want to hear your personality!

They’re reading about your life and that means they want more of you in the writing. Learning how to write a memoir includes figuring out how to put more of you into the pages.

Don’t be afraid to write how you speak. Talk to them as if you were talking to a friend.

Here are a few ways you can add more personality into your memoir:

  • Tell jokes
  • Use cuss words (if that’s how you really speak!)
  • Add your personal lingo (we all have phrases we use regularly)
  • Italicize words you emphasize when speaking
  • If you have the urge to write something you think is funny or witty, do it!
  • Write your book by talk-to-text using Google Docs or other writing software

You want your readers to gain a sense of who you are not only through your stories but through the voice in your writing as well.

#10 Write a memoir you’d want to read

How do you ensure others will like our memoir? Write it in a way that makes it an entertaining read for yourself!

This has a lot to do with putting your own personality into it but it’s also about crafting the structure of your novel in an entertaining manner, too.

Even though this is a memoir, there should still be a climax to keep readers intrigued. This would be when your life came to a head; where you struggled but was able to pull yourself out of the trenches and forge your own path.

How to Start a Memoir

A strong introduction is everything.

Without the ability to hook readers, convincing someone to buy and read your book will be a bit harder than anticipated.

That’s why we’ve put together a few tips to help you learn how to start a memoir that’s captivating and intriguing.

Let’s draw those readers in!

#1 – Be relatable

Nobody wants to read a book that’s preachy or condescending.

One major mistake many make when writing a memoir is not starting it off in a way that makes the readers connect with them.

This is one of the most important aspects of your memoir.

Do you really think people will want to read about a person’s life if they can’t relate to them?

Think about when you were most invested in a book (or even a TV show or movie). What did you like most? Could you relate to the author or the characters?

Did you understand their pain and triumph and hardships?

This is typically the best way to not only create invested readers but to gain fans. When others relate to you and see themselves in your journey, they’ll want to stick around to see how it plays out.

And that means they’ll read your whole book and any others you write.

#2 – Use emotion by showing, not telling

If you want to give a play-by-play of your life with nothing more than a list of experiences you’ve gone through, that’s fine.

Just know that doing it that way won’t hook your readers and it certainly won’t keep them.

A memoir can be a powerful tool for educating others through your life journeys, but if they’re not intrigued enough to keep reading, it’ll render your memoir pointless.

And we don’t want that.

showing and not telling, you’ll put more emotion into your writing. This technique might sound confusing but it’s actually quite easy once you learn how to do it.

Here are the basics for showing versus telling:

  • Use fewer tell words like “I heard,” “I felt,” “I smelled,” “I saw,” to bring readers closer
  • Stop explaining emotions and instead explain physical reactions of those emotions (If you want to say “I was scared,” describe your heart hammering against your chest or the sweat beading your forehead instead)
  • Describe body language in more detail
  • Use strong verbs that coincide with the emotions you’re trying to convey (writing “crashed to the floor” instead of “fell to the floor” creates more impact)

This writing method can be tricky to master but thankfully, there are countless resources to help you figure it out.

#3 – Make the message clear right away

What is it you’re trying to say through your memoir? Why did you want to start writing one in the first place?

Everybody has an interesting life if you look deep enough. What you have to determine is how your life experiences can aid and shape the lives of others.

Think about how that will manifest from what you’ve lived through before and make sure your readers know what it is from the start (which can also be done through a powerful book title).

How to Write a Memoir Tips from Experts

The best advice you can receive is from someone who’s done it before. These Self-Publishing School students (and graduates!) have first-hand knowledge when it comes to the difficulties of writing your life down on paper.

Here’s what these memoir writers want you to know.

#1 – Write from the heart

Christopher Moss, author of Hope Over Anxiety, says the best way to write your memoir is to be open about your experiences.

“Write from the heart. Show people your experience. Be as vulnerable and honest as you can. If it scares you a little, what you are writing that’s good. The reader has to feel what you are going through.”

#2 – Don’t be afraid to go with the flow

Lou A. Vendetti, who’s in the thick of writing and working toward publication of his memoir, has a few pieces of advice for you.

“Do not be afraid to deviate. If your book doesn’t follow your outline one hundred percent, then that’s okay! Don’t feel like you have to only talk about what’s in your outline. You are the author; you are the publisher, so you are the one making all of the decisions (sounds scary, huh?). In the beginning, I thought it was.”

“Don’t think that the memoir is supposed to be ‘formal.’ As an example, I use contractions in mine, which would not necessarily be used in a nonfiction book. Yes, I wanted my book to be professional, but I didn’t want to make it sound like I’m not ‘on my audience’s level.’ I wanted to keep my voice and make it as if I’m talking to my audience; as if I’m having a conversation with them.”

#3 – Review old photos and videos

Toni Crowe, author of Never a $7 Whore, says it’s best to relive your memories the best you can through photos and videos.

“My advice to new memoir writers is to take the time to review any old documents or photos that exist and to pull those memories out to examine. Doing this during the map mapping process helped me immensely.”

Famous Memoir Examples to Emulate

Sometimes it’s easier to learn by example. That way, you can fully comprehend what a memoir is in order to write your own.

These are famous memoir examples:

  1. A Moveable Feast by Ernest Hemingway
  2. West with the Night by Beryl Markham
  3. Personal Memoirs of Ulysses S. Grant by Ulysses Grant
  4. Out of Africa by Isak Dinesen
  5. The Story of My Life by Helen Keller
  6. I Am Malala: The Girl Who Stood Up for Education and Was Shot by the Taliban by Malala Yousafzai
  7. Reading Lolita in Tehran by Azar Nafisi.
  8. My Beloved World by Sonia Sotomayor
  9. Fun Home by Alison Bechdel
  10. Hunger: A Memoir of (My) Body by Roxane Gay

Memoir examples by our own students:

  1. Mile-High Missionary: A Jungle Pilot’s Memoir by Jim Manley
  2. Walking My Momma Home: Finding Love, Grace, and Acceptance Through the Labyrinth of Dementia by Kathy Flora
  3. Prayers, Punk Rock and Pastry by Chris Stewart
  4. Bare Naked Bravery: How to Be Creatively Courageous by Emily Ann Peterson
  5. Shift Happens: Turning Your Stumbling Blocks into Stepping Stones by Jill Rogers
  6. Hope Dealers: The Calling, The Struggles, The Breakthroughs and The Community of Believers by Nadine Blase Psareas

This is the Story of Your Life

The biggest takeaway here is that this is your story, it’s your life, and therefore, it should be told just as you want it to be.

So…will you be like Nadine and decide to take the leap and find a system that really works to produce a bestselling memoir? Or will you spend yet another year trying to get it right?

The choice is solely yours.

But there’s nothing more freeing than having the ability to articulate your life experiences in a way that will truly speak to others and potentially change their lives.

Do you want to change lives and help others through the same turmoil you’ve experienced?

By self-publishing your memoir, you’ll be rewarded for all of your honest hard work with more than just additional income.

You will be responsible for changing and shaping the lives of others.

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