Writing any book is hard work. But autobiographical writing can be especially tricky. So check out our top autobiography tips for some ideas on where to start writing about your own life.
1. Know Who You Are Writing For
The first step in writing an autobiography is working out who it is for.
You may simply want a memento for future generations of your family. Or you may want to share your life with the world. Or maybe its the idea of writing a best-selling book that motivates you.
In any case, the ideal style of your writing will depend on your intended audience. Knowing your audience early on can help guide the writing process.
2. Find a Compelling Concept
If you are writing for a general audience, you may need a “hook” to draw readers in. After all, most autobiographies these days are about celebrities. So unless you happen to have millions of followers on Instagram already, it helps to have a unique selling point.
Maybe your extraordinary life is enough to do this by itself! But you can also build a life story around something you’ve learned or a specific theme. Or perhaps your life reflects the untold social or historical story of people like you, and you want to increase awareness of that world.
The key is to work out what makes your life story compelling, even for people who’ve never met you. If you can do this, you will have a good framework around which to write an autobiography.
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3. Planning an Autobiography
Any big project requires planning. With an autobiography, for example, you will need to decide whether you’re writing about your entire life or just part of it (a story that focuses on just one part of a life is known as a memoir). And even if you are covering your whole life so far, you will want to pick and choose the best stories and events to write about.
Keep in mind that an autobiography does not have to be chronological, nor does it have to start during childhood. Something else to think about, then, is how you will frame your story.
4. Honesty Is the Best Policy
An autobiography is non-fiction, so try to be honest in your writing. This applies as much to your embarrassing moments as it does to your triumphs in life. An honest, revealing autobiography is almost always more interesting than one full of half-truths.
However, you may want to change some details to protect people’s privacy. For instance, you could change someone’s name to protect their privacy or for legal reasons, especially if you’re discussing something sensitive. Or you might just want to avoid upsetting old friends and colleagues!
5. Edit and Proofread
As with any book, you’re only half done once you have a first draft. Next, you’ll need to edit and redraft your manuscript. Take some time out before you start this to get some critical distance. Asking a friend or family member for feedback at this point is a great idea, too.
And once you have a final draft, make sure to proofread carefully. This will remove any remaining typos, leaving you with a manuscript ready for publication. However, proofreading your own writing can be difficult, so you may want to ask the professionals for a little help.