Your Life in Words: How to Write an Autobiography

| Posted in Writing.

Girl writing in notepadAn autobiography is a self-written book that tells the story of the author’s life. Autobiographies are often mistakenly considered to be the same as memoirs, which is not the case. An autobiography covers the writer’s life in its entirety (to the point of publication) while a memoir covers a certain memorable period of the writer’s life.

You’re opening up yourself to the world when you write your autobiography, so you need to be mentally and emotionally ready for the process.

  • Where to begin

You need to understand why you are writing the autobiography. Knowing your reasons can make the writing itself a lot easier. You also need to understand what message you want to send. What do you want to leave readers with when they close the book for the last time? What feelings do you want to evoke in people when they read the book? All these questions need to be answered before you begin writing.

  • Know your audience

Knowing your audience ties in with understanding the reason for writing the book. Your tone of writing will change according to the group of people for whom you are writing. The structure and the approach you use in writing the book also need to accommodate your audience.

  • Do your research

Even though you are writing about your life, you still need to do some research. You should start by reading other autobiographies. This will allow you to get a feel of what is out there. You can also see how other authors approach writing. Of course, you do not have to follow the same pattern of writing, but it will give you a rough overview of how you can approach the process.

Your research will also allow you to see the types of stories that have already been written. Your story is different to all other stories out there, but if the general outline of the story is similar to a bunch of others, then readers might lose interest. Your challenge is to make your story sound extraordinary.

  • Writing

Sit in a calm and relaxing environment where you will be able to think uninterrupted, and just start writing. Look at old photos, videos, clothes, and letters and speak to people who were around you at the time to jog your memory. Putting yourself back there emotionally just might get those creative juices flowing.

Lay out your story in the order you wish to tell it, and then expand from there. Do not worry too much about grammar and such at this stage; just be yourself and the great story that is your life will start pouring out of you. Once you are done with the general writing, add details and make the story even more gripping and readable.

When you think you’re done, proofread it, edit it, and get your friends and family to read it. Then send it some publishers to see what they think. Prepare yourself for several rejection letters and plenty more rewrites. It’ takes time and patience to get your story sold.

No matter the reason, writing an autobiography can be a satisfying task. Who knows how many people you might motivate, inspire and encourage by writing your life story?


Written by Zimasa Mpemnyama

Image credit: Microsoft Images, Royalty Free


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