Best Tips for Writing an Autobiography
Autobiography, as a genre, is one of the most diverse types of nonfiction writing. Readers enjoy learning about the lives of their fellow humans, particularly those with notable personal stories, as evidenced by bestseller lists. An autobiography is a biography written by the subject. An autobiography provides readers of the wider biography genre with an unrivaled level of intimacy as a firsthand account of the author's own life. Here, we have covered a short guide for writing autobiography.
What Should You Include in Your Autobiography?
So, what are the essential elements of an autobiography? Many people confuse the terms "autobiography" with "memoir," yet there are some distinctions between the two. A memoir, in particular, is a more artistic interpretation of a certain moment in a person's life. It will usually read more like a traditional novel and will have more creative freedom.
Here's what you're looking for in an autobiography:
A Whole Lifetime
An autobiography will detail the subject's complete life. It will cover everything from upbringing to schooling to lack of schooling to teenage years. It might not devote the same amount of time to each of these topics—for example, if a thirties-aged astronaut wrote an autobiography, she might not devote as much time to her mundane youth in midwestern suburbia as she does to, say, her space experiences.
The primary goal of an autobiography is to chronicle the subject's life. So, even if we skip some sections, we should still receive the whole picture.
Chronological Order and Attention to Detail
Because autobiographies are about charting a person's life, it's only natural that they be written in chronological sequence.
It is critical to conduct research for your book.
From birth to the present day, a well-written autobiography should be written. Again, it's great if some sections are more interesting than others, but an autobiography shouldn't leave out entire decades of a person's life. Autobiographies should also go into great detail. After all, we've come to read this book to learn about the author's fascinating life—we want lots of interesting facts!
For example, where did they go to school and what did they study? What was their first job after graduation? Some sections of a person's life may be skipped over in a memoir because they aren't present to talk about them. However, an autobiography cannot benefit from the same exceptions.
Let's say I read a biography about Joe Smith, a character I just made up. If I read another biography and discover that he attended Stanford University and graduated at the top of his class, but never used that degree in his later work, I'll conclude that the previous biography was poorly researched and incomplete.
A Detailed Story
People's lives are complex, convoluted, and, without getting too existential, lack a climax or peak point. We all have spiritual awakenings, moments of enlightenment, or times in our particular character arcs that feel like a climax, but we wouldn't find a strong Freytag's Pyramid structure if we plotted them out over the course of our lives.
It's crucial to remember that autobiographies are still novels when reading them. It's still a story. Even if they don't follow traditional fictional storytelling techniques, there should be a common storyline that connects all of these occurrences. It should feel like a story rather than a series of disconnected happenings. Rags-to-riches, voyage and return, individual vs. self, and person vs. society are all typical storylines.
Characters that are well-balanced
Characters should be balanced in an autobiography! Now, I understand what you're thinking: real humans are a shambles. We don't write conversation precisely like people speak since that would be ridiculous, and we don't write people to be exactly like real people either. Real people can be tedious, unpredictable, and challenging.
While an autobiography should not alter individuals to make them more appealing or easier to read, it should make the story's characters authentic and depict them with nuance and balance. If the mother in an autobiography, for example, is just plain wicked, the book will fall flat, even if the mother was indeed harsh to the subject.
What Not to Write in an Autobiography
Let's speak about some of the things you should avoid in your autobiography now that we know what to include.
True, there is beauty in everyday life. Many individuals, like me, spend rather ordinary and boring lives with moments of extreme beauty and significance. And there's nothing wrong with ordinary people's memoirs! You don't have to have traveled to the moon or become a billionaire to have lived a life worth remembering.
Readers, on the other hand, do not want the mundane to be mundane. Every scene in an autobiography should be doing something, and if it's just taking us through a business meeting, a high school history class, or another commute to work without any broader commentary on how that experience impacted the person's life, it's definitely unnecessary. This is why, even if you're not a fiction writer, learning about the craft of writing is critical.
You can do so by reading some of the following articles: how to show, not tell in writing, narrative writing, elements of fiction, and how to write dialogue.
Campaigns of Disinformation
Remember how I mentioned having balanced characters earlier? Autobiographies aren't the place to wreak havoc on your ex-boyfriend from ten years ago. You'll need people's consent to print their names, and openly slandering someone will not only get you sued (though you can escape being sued while still telling your tale), but it'll also likely turn off a lot of your readers.
Perspective is crucial at this point. Looking at someone who has been cruel to you through a complex, nuanced perspective can be unpleasant. Making everyone look good isn't as important as making everyone look honest.
Glossing Over the Important Issues
Nothing is more annoying than reaching a particularly interesting section of an autobiography only to realize that the author has chosen to skip over it. I'd want to hear about your trip to Europe with nothing but a backpack and a few bucks! If someone had a particularly formative relationship in their childhood, I'd like to know how that relationship affected them as an adult.
How to Write an Autobiography: The Essential Steps
Okay, we're all set to begin writing our own memoirs. This advice will also be useful if you're working on a smaller project, such as a personal essay, or if you're considering writing a memoir!
Take a Deep Breath
First, reminisce about your childhood. Examine any old mementos you may have from your childhood, visit old places, and jot down anything you recall. This could entail visiting your hometown (if possible), retrieving that box of childhood mementos from the attic, or speaking with your parents about your youth.
Don't be scared to get down to business. Make a list of both the good and the bad. A side note: if going back to your childhood and revisiting these old experiences is unpleasant for you, you should go to therapy first and then come back to the autobiography later. Retraumatizing yourself will not help you write a better autobiography.
Investigate Your Topics
Talk to your parents, reunite with old acquaintances from childhood, and reconnect with old instructors. You'll want to speak with them if you plan to include them in your autobiography. You should also make time to visit places, investigate events you attended, and speak with others who have had similar experiences.
Why? For several causes. For starters, you want to make sure you're providing the most balanced viewpoint possible. You aren't a journalist, but you are writing a book, therefore you must be balanced and fair. Two, memory is peculiar, and this will not only allow you to rectify things you may have remembered incorrectly, but it will also aid you in remembering things you may have forgotten over time.
Make a plan for your autobiography.
The novel outline, oh my! Even in an autobiography, you can't avoid it. Take advantage of a narrative structure and apply it here. Look up the components of that story arc, draw them out, and put all of your facts into those boxes if you choose rags-to-riches. This will make your autobiography more organized, enjoyable to read, and simple to follow.
Draft your autobiography till it's totally finished once you've received our outline. Personally, I advocate speeding through it, but utilize whatever way works best for you. If you're writing a really difficult article, take breaks and return to it when you're ready—don't overwork yourself.
Give it some time.
Allow some time to pass after you've finished drafting. Work on other projects to give it some breathing room. This will provide you with some emotional separation from your completed work. When writing anything, emotional distance is vital, but it's especially important when writing an autobiography. It's difficult not to interpret a critique of an autobiography as a condemnation of the life you've lived, yet the autobiography will need to be critiqued, revised, and edited at some point. Adding some room to the equation makes things a lot easier.
Fact-checking and revising
Finally, you've reached the stage of revision! After some time has passed, dust off the autobiography and begin rewriting. Look for gaps in the timeline, anything that lags, flat characters, arcs that don't progress, and, most importantly, erroneous information. Consider approaching this stage as if it were a novel. First, double-check that your story is coherent. Then experiment with other sentences, characters, places, and events. Finally, go over everything with a fine-tooth comb and double-check everything.
Get Your Book Published!
You've written a memoir! You now have three options: self-publish your autobiography, get it traditionally published, or keep it for yourself and your loved ones. Congratulations for creating a whole autobiography, whatever you decide to do with it!