How to Write an Autobiography
Autobiographies are the most powerful thing you can write about yourself due to their unmatched intimacy. The reader is getting a firsthand account of your life.
Autobiographies are particularly popular with readers as they provide valuable lessons on life and exciting solutions to how people have overcome unique problems.
There is always an autobiography trending these days, such as Matthew McConaughey’s “Greenlights.” Some even shake the world, such as “The Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass” or Anne Frank’s “Diary of a Young Girl.”
Stories are meant to be passed down through generations. They intend to preserve family histories. So if you want to pass down your legacy, you’ve come to the right place.
See our six tips on how to write the best autobiography.
Identify Your Audience
Every writer has a target audience. What type of readers will benefit from your story? What do you want to convey to them?
Start by writing out the significant events of your life you want to include. For example, what experience most shaped you into who you are today? What have you learned? This will reveal your story.
Choose a central theme for your story.
It can be:
• The childhood story
• Coming of age story
• The falling in love story
A story of grief, conflict, or identity.
The story you tell will influence who your target audience is. Often, the theme of a story is a message about life. For example, why the author (you) wrote the story and what message you want to share with your readers.
Gain Inspiration from Others
Who is your role model?
Some examples of famous autobiographies include:
• “Agatha Christie: An Autobiography” by Agatha Christie
• “Mark Twain’s Own Autobiography” by Mark Twain
• “Chronicles: Volume 1” by Bob Dylan
• “Born a Crime” by Trevor Noah
• “Bossypants” by Tina Fey
Thinking about your autobiography may make you feel overwhelmed and lost. The best thing to do is gain outside inspiration and read an autobiography of someone who interests you.
My Stories Matter is a great place to start writing your autobiography. If you experience writer’s block, parse through memories and feelings other people share on My Stories Matter every day. When writing about a particular story or event, you can invite people who were there to collaborate and fill in the gaps. Inspiration is something you must actively seek. “If your ship doesn’t come in, swim out to it” (Jonathan Winters).
Create Your Timeline
Once you’ve identified your audience and read your role model’s work, it’s time to create a timeline for your autobiography!
To do this, list all the important events that happened to you. This is considered the “research” and “brainstorming” phase. What was your adolescence like? Your time at college? Career? A profound, life-altering moment?
Browsing the Timeline feature in My Stories Matter, you can see your memories and life events organized in an intuitive chronological feed. You can focus on writing and reminiscing while your memories are automatically categorized for easy viewing.
Get Everything Out!
Write first, revise later. First drafts are always messy but crucial. Don’t worry about length, flow, etc. It’s also important not to feel self-conscious writing first drafts. The first draft is only for your eyes. The more you write, the better your writing will be.
Try Free Association writing if you’re stumped on ideas or feel self-conscious. Devised by Sigmund Freud, this method gets all of your thoughts out on paper without thinking about what you’re writing.
Edit, Edit, Edit!
Once you have the first draft, it’s time to revise your work! Spelling matters. Poor grammar and sentence structure could easily dissuade your readers and damage your credibility.
One study found that 7 in 10 adults, or 71%, frequently find spelling mistakes others make. When proofreading our work, we don’t see our typos because what we see on the screen competes with the version in our heads. Therefore, research urges you to make your work as unfamiliar as possible, such as changing the font or background color to better catch typos.
Good grammar will keep your audience interested in your autobiography. Thankfully, many tools and resources help, such as Grammarly or Ginger. You can hire a professional editor or even have a trusted friend or family member check your work.
Many famous historical figures had a second pair of eyes looking over and collaborating on their autobiographies, such as Andrew Mortain in Princess Diana’s groundbreaking “Diana: Her True Story - in Her Own Words” or Alex Haley in Malcolm X’s “The Autobiography of Malcolm X.”
Reading too long on your screen drains you mentally, making it harder to remember what you read once you’re done. It’s vital to have a second pair of eyes reading through your autobiography, pinpointing spelling or content flaws.
Feedback adds perspective to your autobiography.
Your life has something to offer this world, someone to inspire. Many people will relate to your experiences. As Stephen King states: “A little talent is a good thing to have if you want to be a writer. But the only real requirement is the ability to remember every scar.”
Not sure where to write your autobiography? Try My Stories Matter, a safe, effective way to begin recording your life story.