Writing an autobiography is one of the best things in this world. I mean, telling your story to others is something that we all aspire to achieve. But as exciting as writing an autobiography seems, it is no less than a thorn in roses.
This is why I have compiled this guide on how to write an autobiography for you. And I will try to relate it with an autobiography example as much as possible.
Beginning with tips
First things should always come first. This is why I present to you 3 basic tips that you should remember. Before you start writing your autobiography, remember these points –
A boring autobiography makes the reader fall asleep. You do not want that to happen to your readers. No, that does not mean that your autobiography should be like the life of a CIA operative or a student by day and vigilante by night. That stuff doesn’t work. Be interesting with the words and the explanation of the events that you are writing.
No matter how boring your life was, always present it to the readers in a star wrapped present that makes them go “Damn”.
Don’t throw logic under the bus
A lot of students think that since it is an autobiography, they can exaggerate in their autobiography.
Let me tell you simple and straight. Do. Not. Write. Stupidity. Please, don’t.
When you are writing the autobiography, always make sure that your readers keep their faith in logic. Events like “I once fought 50 men and rescued a damsel in distress” or “I have a superpower that nobody knows about; I can go invisible any time I want”. It is stupidity and that is exactly what you do not want to happen in your assignment.
Keep it simple
If you think that you will write Victorian English and act cool in front of the readers, then you are absolutely wrong. While writing an autobiography, keep the words and sentences simple. Write such that even a toddler can understand what you have written. Make sure that you are able to express your feelings and messages simply and clearly.
“The obscure nature of people masquerading as the beacon of hope in the progressing world is precarious for us all”.
This could simply be said as “The hidden nature of people pretending to be the hope of this world is dangerous.”
Know the format you want to write in
To write an autobiography, you have to first choose a format you want to write in. And it is imperative that you follow that same format throughout. Do not try to mix things up because that will surely mix your grades up.
The most common formats that you can use to write your autobiography are –
As the name suggests, this is probably the simplest way of writing an autobiography. No, you do not ask some courtesan to write your autobiography like the emperors of medieval India. The traditional way of writing an autobiography means that you write your autobiography right from the time that you were born to the moment you are writing your autobiography.
For example, Long Walk to Freedom by Nelson Mandela.
A memoir, as the name hints, is focussed on a specific memory. The memoir only highlights one particular part of the aspect of the writer. You can focus on a particular event that occurred, a particular phase of your life or a time period that holds special value to you that you want to discuss with others. You can write about different themes in this like religion, history or philosophy.
For example, Dreams From My Father by Barack Hussein Obama.
Vignette is a collection of short chapters from the life of a person. Each chapter focuses on a different aspect of a person’s life. This does not necessarily mean that if the person is 20 years old then you include 20 different chapters. No, you can include various events into different chapters that can be as short as 3 chapters.
For example, An American Childhood by Annie Dillard.
Personal essays are when you focus on one single moment. Like the time when you got your first pet. Focus on that particular moment and write your narration. You need to write as if you are explaining each and every detail of your narration. Create a picture with your words but only focus on one single moment in time. Do not jump from one moment to another.
Some possible topics here can be –
- My semester abroad
- My first camping trip
- My first pet
I know they are simple but I am just giving you an example. Do not choose these topics, please.
Here is how you write an autobiography
1. Map the life
When you are writing an autobiography and you know what type of format you are going to follow, map it out in a timeline. This step is really essential when you are writing a traditional type of autobiography.
For ease of understanding, let me assume that we are writing a traditional autobiography, okay?
So, you need to first lay it all out. Close your eyes and go back in time as far as you can. Conduct research about your own life. Browse through old photos, call your mom and take a walk down the memory lane.
Your autobiography doesn’t necessarily have to begin with “A wailing sound swam across the silent hospital corridors at 3 in the night of July 11, 1989. It was then when I was born.” No, do not do that.
2. The heroes of your story
Every story is incomplete without a protagonist and an antagonist and supporting actors. This is exactly what you are doing. Identify the main characters of your life. They can be friends, family or enemies. But they should hold a place in your life to keep the wheel of autobiography spinning.
3. Read more to write more
Read a couple of novels and autobiographies to get an idea of how an autobiography starts. Extract ideas and stories from a number of sources. Since no autobiography is a one-liner, you need to bring out anecdotes that you have to include. Start writing your manuscript with the main plot and theme and develop a story around it.
4. Write in a revealing way
The main purpose of an autobiography is to write what you have not told many people. Include incidents that not many are aware of. Think that you are writing a long letter disclosing your deepest secrets and desires to a lover. Be truthful about your life and do not prepare a long essay of accomplishments. You are not perfect, accept your flaws.
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