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poisonedantidote's avatar

How to write an autobiography?

Asked by poisonedantidote (21549 points ) December 22nd, 2012

I have decided to go ahead and write an autobiography. No my ego has not inflated to that point, yet. I am just interested in writing it as a kind of time capsule for my own sake, so I can look back on it in future. I am coming up to 30 years of age in January, and figured now would be a good time to do it.

Are there any general rules when doing this kind of thing? is there a specific style, way or method to an autobiography?

While I do read a lot, I hardly ever read stories, and have probably never read a full published autobiography in my entire life. So even thought I read way more books than average, I have no experience in this kind of writing.

Are there any pitfalls I should look out for? Have you got any general advice?

How should a person write their autobiography?

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9 Answers

marinelife's avatar

Tell your story.

Look for a common theme that runs through your life. Use that as the skeleton to hang your story from.

Bellatrix's avatar

The first place to start would be to read some autobiographies then. I am sure people here can give you examples they have thought to be really well written. Might be worth reading some not so well written examples so you can see the other side of the fence too.

Do you keep a diary? That would be the other thing I started to do. It is amazing how much I cannot remember from my youth. Names, places, times… so many details that have gone. So, if you could start now even retrospectively thinking about the people in your life, writing your thoughts on key individuals or places. All of this writing will be useful when you get down to the real writing of your own book.

I am not sure if this is a good idea or not – I know we have other writers here who will hopefully chime in on this – perhaps interview key people in your life to get their take on events you remember. Sometimes our minds skew things OR we have completely forgotten things that happened and other people can remind us. I would record these interviews (with their permission).

I think it’s a good idea. I wish I had at least kept a diary. As I said, so many details have gone from my past and would like to be able to remember places and people more clearly. Oh and go through photographs. Get people to send you photos they have of you and your interactions with them. A picture speaks a thousand words. You might be able to include them in your book. You will need to own the copyright for the photos to do that though or have the owner’s permission in writing.

CWOTUS's avatar

According to Red Smith and Paul Gallico, writing is easy, you just open a vein and bleed.

SadieMartinPaul's avatar

Have you considered keeping a journal? You don’t need to write something every day, just the days when something memorable happens or when you have thoughts and reflections to document. As time goes by, you’ll have written an autobiography.

wundayatta's avatar

Another vote for opening a vein and letting it bleed.

Unbroken's avatar

I have read more memoirs and biographies then autobiographies.

Bellatrix’s ideas are good especially if you are going for the autobiography look. It can be difficult to look up influential players in your life story.

I wouldn’t recommend a linear style. Our minds don’t think that way.

I find it interesting to juxtapose two events play off each other. Our childhood events influence and inform how we will later react to this other scenario.

I would construct an outline. Very rough. But of events and times in your life you want to highlight and for what purpose.

This is why history or even current events are so easily spun. Because even if you are giving just pure facts which in this case is not possible the facts that you include as well as the information you don’t shape the perspective of the subject.

So what is your current view of you, how have you grown, what achievements do you find important? Did your world view change over time and why? There are a ton of questions that you can ask yourself. Thesis questions, it all depends on the direction of the book and what you most want to convey.

ucme's avatar

Oh that’s easy, tricky part is finding someone good to write abo…hang on!

Earthgirl's avatar

If you’re writing for yourself primarily it makes everything different. Amazingly and horribly, as hard as it may be to imagine, we tend to forget what it was like in the moment as we lived it. We think we remember, but if we keep a diary and reread it, it will often turn out to tell a different story than the one that lives on in our mind. Time has a way of wearing away the details and selectively “forgetting” things. So if I was making a record of my life for myself, I would try to be as honest and un sugar-coated as possible. That means you have to be honest with yourself. You have to open your eyes and see things as they are, as closely as possible, as accurately as possible. That isn’t easy to do. Well, for me, it’s not, because I like to romanticize things too much. I like poetic justice, poetic license and anything with a grand and emotive theme. So to me, that is the major pitfall. You need to look at yourself and your life with open eyes and be brutally honest. You need to not be afraid to say in you journal what you are really thinking. You should not play to the imaginary audience. If it is going to be worth anything to you that should be your goal when you write.

wundayatta's avatar

You could do what @Earthgirl suggests, or you could just be depressed. No one is kind to themselves while depressed.

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