Whether you know it or not, writing about yourself can prove to be a bit harder than writing about someone or something else. There are so many elements to autobiography writing that need to be keenly focused on because they can become the reason for its success or failure.
In this blog, we'll be talking about the key features you need to focus on while writing an autobiography, a step-by-step- guide, and some dos and don'ts that you should know.
What Is Autobiography Writing?
Autobiography writing revolves around your life, your experiences, challenges, and achievements. The reason why this type of writing poses such difficulty is having to open up about yourself to others and giving them an insight into the person you are and the life you have lived.
You could be writing an autobiography for a wide range of reasons such as job applications, scholarships, contests, or maybe because it is something that you want to do to let people know how your experiences shaped you as a person.
Autobiography writing isn't about bragging about the good you are or how the world let you down, it is about making a statement or letting the readers walk through your journey of ups and downs. You share your personality, your hardships, your achievements, and your life, in general, to let the audience learn and maybe even take notes.
Difference between Autobiography Writing and Biography
Biographies are written about someone else. Biographers take on an interest in some other person and write about them where autobiographies are about the person itself. One has to describe their life events-good or bad- and then build up a story from that key point. Biographers have to do a lot of research about their subject when writing their lives to make sure that all the facts are straight. Whereas, autobiographers have to focus on themselves and relay their story in an engaging manner.
Difference between Autobiography and Memoir
Autobiography writing is often compared to a memoir which basically is the non-fiction narrative of an autobiography that focuses on a specific moment of the author's life. Autobiography accounts for the events of the author's life whereas memoir takes one moment of the author's life, challenge, or achievement, and then builds up a story based on that.
It may be possible that a memoir relays the events of the author's entire life but it is presented through a focused lens that highlights some particular issues and experiences. To explain more clearly, a memoir takes an event from the life of the authors and then expands on a larger theme.
For example, a professional chef relays their entire life story in their autobiography where they would talk about every detail that leads them to be who they are today while talking more about when they won an award. Whereas, if they were to write a memoir, they would focus wholly on the event when they won an award and then expand the story based on that.
Things to Include in your Autobiography
Autobiography writing includes every important detail of your life. The keyword is important details. You don't need to include trivial details that just stretch the story instead of adding some meaning to it.
When going about your autobiography, it is easy to get lost in yourself and adding every minute detail in the story. Whenever that urge arises, shake yourself and think about the audience whether they should know about this piece of information.
Here are some factors that you should consider while writing your autobiography:
- ● Details about your origin, family history, family or friends impacted you and should be worth mentioning in your autobiography writing.
- ● Experiences relevant to the story that shaped yourself, your views, and your opinions. Whether they were challenges that you had to face or some achievements that you accomplished, mentioning them would give your story some value.
- ● You have decided to write an autobiography so you have to be very deceptive about the turning points of your life. This is the part of your story that needs more limelight so in order to create a larger impact, talk about the stepping stones through which you got to where you are now.
- ● If you are talking about a failure then follow it up with how you coped with it and how you overcame it.
- ● Don’t use vague, broad, and ambiguous language. Not in the title or the story itself. When you are talking about any particular moment then lay down all the details. When you are writing down the title of the autobiography, steer clear of generic titles that say “my life story” or “my autobiography”.
- ● Use the first-person narrative to tell your story. Third-person narrative in an autobiography writing may seem a bit egotistical.
Step-by-Step Guide to Autobiography Writing
One of the key aspects that one should keep in mind while writing an autobiography is the importance of picking up an experience or situation that shaped you to be the person you are today. The reason behind this is that you should be able to talk about the details of your experience and relay all the events that happened in a way that grabs the audience's attention.
That may not seem like a hard thing but when you actually get started, you'll realize that you may not have enough to write about. Read ahead to see how to strategize your autobiography writing to make it more impactful and worth reading.
Regardless of the reason why you are writing the autobiography, you have to start with brainstorming and drafting. Just start ahead with thinking about the purpose, the goals, and the topic you want to talk about. Knowing the type of audience you are trying to target will help you optimize your writing accordingly.
Keep one thing in mind that you will not get the perfect autobiography writing in the first or even the second go. It will take countless revisions and editing to get to the final stage of writing your autobiography.
After you decide on the topic that you will write about, choose a starting point through which you will build up your story. This starting point will be the foundation of your autobiography which will paint how your personality has built up to the point that is now at the very moment.
Your best bet would be writing about either a complicated challenge that you had to face or your struggle towards achieving a great accomplishment. Lay out the milestones that lead you towards the real deal. A laddered approach where you take the audience through all the steps that paved your way for where you are right now.
Preparing the outline for your autobiography writing requires you to work on the details that you want to relay to your audience, prepare a list of topics and questions that you can answer, or some details that give an insight into your life.
Workaround all the ideas that build up to your central idea. Organize your drafts in a way so that you have a proper flow of the story. Keeping in mind that an autobiography revolves around your life, your experiences, challenges, and achievements, your story needs a flow through which readers can walk with you throughout your life experiences.
Now that you have an outline of what you will be writing about, just jump right into the story and start writing. There is no special key or advice for getting started with your autobiography writing. You just have to dive right into the details and take your story from there.
The first line and paragraph of your autobiography is the hook that will captivate the readers to go ahead with your piece of writing. So, it is of utmost necessity that you start your autobiography writing with an attention-grabbing sentence. Here are some key tips for autobiography writing that will help you with writing yours:
- ● Use the first-person narrative style.
- ● Brainstorm the details of your story to make it more descriptive.
- ● Don’t use vague or ambiguous language.
- ● Include quotes or inspirational messages only if they relate to your story.
- ● Start with a catchy line.
- ● Plan out a smooth transition for your story.
- ● Take on a story-telling approach and let the readers know how your story progressed and how the character developed.
- ● Keep the story engaging and interactive. Finish off with a conclusion that signifies the importance of telling this story.
Now that you are done with writing your whole autobiography. Take some time off and then go back again to proofread your text and correct the mistakes. Be on the lookout for grammar mistakes, sentence structure, and the flow of the content. See if there are any details that can be added to make the story more interesting or if there is something unnecessary that should be deleted.
Do this until any more modifications to the story will completely ruin it. It can be a tedious task but for your story to resonate with its readers and make an impact you have to go that extra mile.
What to Avoid While Writing an Autobiography
Don’t Stretch the Story Too Long
Autobiography writing can be hard to write at first but when you are knee-deep into the story it can be extremely tempting to include every single detail into the story. However, you have to curb that itch and refrain from adding unnecessary things that are just stretching the story pointlessly.
Readers will immediately lose focus when they realize that you have lost track and are just expanding on that one event where you lost your bicycle and went on a five-day adventure hunt to find it. Always keep your purpose in mind and the reason why you wanted your story out there.
Keep your audience in mind and would they perceive the piece of information you have given. Know what key points you want your audience to take out from your story and expand on that.
Remove Trivial Details
With shorter attention spans and busier schedules, you have to keep in mind that your autobiography writing is gripping, compelling, and has the element of mystery that would leave the readers wanting to keep reading till they have finished.
However, if you start with “I went to an XYZ restaurant and ordered an XYZ thing that my XYZ friend recommended which was not good at all”, then please know your autobiography was cast away without a second glance.
People will immediately lose interest if you bore them with details that add no value to the story. This is why brainstorm the key points that you want to focus on and then take your story from there.
Remember That This is Not Your Diary
Indeed, autobiography writing is revealing and very personal but you still have authority on the details you can without a doubt leave out. You can focus on the hurdles you have to face, how little moments challenged you in ways you never thought possible and how you fought your battles with utmost determination and resilience.
You can go on about how you worked hard for your accomplishments and how little moments add up to your success. These are the things that you can talk about at great lengths, without boring the readers. But including details about how that one time your mum didn't let you go to a certain party and you felt as if your mum was a bad person for doing so and how you would disown her- these things will make the readers feel uncomfortable and unwilling to continue reading your autobiography.
A well-written autobiography is the one that connects with the readers, resonates with them, and makes them feel as if they can picture your story right in front of their eyes. Your autobiography writing should be the best depiction of your life and its key moments.
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