Michael Wolkind QC

2 years ago · 2 min. reading time · ~10 ·

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7 Tips for Writing an Autobiography

7 Tips for Writing an Autobiography

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An autobiography is among the most important and personal piece of writing a person can write. For many, this feels like a ‘life’s work’ which can put a lot of stress on a writer. These tips could help take a bit of stress off of the writing process, as well as provide you with a new way of seeing the project. 

Read Other People’s Autobiographies

Much like how an artist while copy or obsess over the works of other artists for practice, you should first take the time to read other autobiographical works. Not only is this important for knowing how to write one, but will also help you consider your own life and writing approach.

Consider Your Readers.

Every writer needs to consider who will be reading their writing. You might want your biography to be read by people of every walk of life, but this is not necessarily going to happen. If you think your life will be most interesting to those in your professional circle, maybe that changes how you focus your writing. If your autobiography will be more focused on a hobby, or more comical, then perhaps you can be more conversational.

Find The Core of Your Story.

The greatest biographies have a singular idea at their core. Tina Fey’s Bossypants centers itself around how she has been seen as a person in power (bossy) but also how she has dealt with those views in good humor (pants). A very different approach is seen in Maya Angelou’s I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, as she centers her biography around her resistance and personal struggles. Think about what is important to your story.

Find the Right Structure.

Chronologically might be the easiest way to organize your biography, as well as the easiest to write. But some writers opt for a theme for each chapter, or to focus on major life events and how each one affected their life in full. Maybe you have it broken into professional life and personal life, or by the important people in your life and how they affected you.

Don’t Lose Focus.

Writing is a long, arduous process, filled with tedium and endless consideration of what is the right thing to say.  Keep at it! Dedicate some time every day to writing, or keep your inspirational items and pictures nearby while you write.

Use Any Tools You Can.

Many people think that it’s somehow ‘cheating’ to use anything outside their own thoughts when they write, but don’t fall into that trap. The best writers use everything at their disposal – templates, dictionaries, word processors, and more. The important thing is that you tell the right story, not how you managed to put it together.

Edit, Edit, Edit.

Editing is a critical and important part of the writing process. Unfortunately, it’s also the most painful. Editing your own work can sometimes feel like hearing your voice on a recording, but it has to be done in order to have the powerful and personal autobiography that you dream of having.

Originally published to michaelwokindqc.net


Comments

Paul Walters

2 years ago #1

Sound advice here. An autobiography... hmm. It's an interesting concept but a painful one as what does one leave out ? In my case, I think it would be far better to have it published posthumously !! As for the edit, its as tedious as watching paint dry. Thank you

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