How to Write An Autobiography
How to Write
Your life story is too important to simply let fade away. Whether you preserve it for your children, grandchildren and great grandchildren or for a wider audience, an autobiography offers one way to share your story with others.
Listed below are a few tips I’ve picked up from my years as a video biographer that you might find helpful as you plan your own process. Below those are links to several websites that offer even more tips on ‘How to Write an Autobiography’.
‘How to Write an Autobiography’
Tips From a Video Biographer
When capturing a client’s story in a video biography or video memoir, I start by dividing the process into three phases: 1) Pre-Production/Planning, 2) Production/Material Gathering, and 3) Post-Production/Editing & Completion. Listed below are tips to consider with each phase.
Know your Audience
Determine who your audience is and try to put yourself in their shoes. If your autobiography is for your grandchildren and great grandchildren, think about what you would want to know about your grandparents and great grandparents. What stories, information, delivery style, tone etc. would resonate with you?
Know your Goals
Will your autobiography cover – your life story from the early years to the present day or focus mainly on a specifi time period or event? Do you want to include family history and life lessons? Make a list of your goals to help you stay focused during the editing process.
Make a Timeline
Set an end date, then, working backwards set monthly, weekly and daily writing goals. Share your progress with others if you find it helps you stay on track.
Create an Outline
Give yourself structure by laying out an outline. Start by listing general categories (childhood, young adulthood, etc) and add sub-categories and then sub, sub-categories under those. You may find yourself adding even more well into the writing phase.
- Production/Content Gathering
What to Share
As you think about what to include, check out these two great articles on why sharing stories of difficult times can actually benefit children: ‘The Stories That Bind Us’ by Bruce Feiler, NYT. and ‘The Power of Myth: The Benefits of Sharing Family Stories of Hard Times’ by Sue Shellenbarger
Need a little help remembering? Bring back memories by stimulating your senses with reminders from your past. For tips on stimulating your senses to bring back memories, visit my blog post on Memory Loss: Family Stories and History.
Write, Write, Write
Let your thoughts flow and worry about editing later. Have a notepad handy at all times since memories don’t always surface when we want them to. If you can’t carry one with you, put one on your nightstand, in your car, kitchen etc.
Photos & Memorabilia
Gather photos, documents, maps and other memorabilia that will help enhance your stories. Visual elements add dimension and a sense of reality for your audience.
As you write your life stories and gather materials, label and file everything under the appropriate category in your outline or create new ones if necessary. This cataloguing will be enormously helpful when it comes time to edit.
- Post Production/Editing
While you may be tempted to include all your stories, your audience may find it overwhelming. Identify the stories you think are important to share, support your goals and you think your audience would want to know. Then, rank stories in order or importance, with 1 being the most important and 4 being the least. Soon, you’ll start to see a managable outline and story-line emerge.
Pull together the stories ranked most important and bring in the lower ranked stories where you see fit.
Add photos and memorabilia as needed.
Refer back to your goals, audience, outline and schedule to help you stay focused and moving forward.
Alternate between working on the details of a single story and pulling back to work on the larger structure.
If you lack confidence in your writing skills, you have a couple of options. You can attend a local class, work with a writing mentor, or hire a professional autobiographer or memoir writer to pull the pieces together for you. Whichever you choose, know your future audience will appreciate the time and energy you put into preserving your stories.
More Tips on
‘How to Write an Autobiography’
Your stories are too important to let fade away. If you find writing a chore or time better spent elsewhere but still want to pass on your story, a Video Biography might be more your style.
This modern day ‘moving’ portrait skillfully weaving a filmed interview with family photos, documents, maps and other memorabilia. (See Samples)
To learn more about capturing your stories in a Video Biography, take a look around my site or contact me directly.