Today, iUniverse talks about writing autobiographies. Just a quick note on terminology: memoirs and autobiographies are two different things. Memoirs focus on a certain period of someone’s life; for example, if Paul McCartney were to write a book about his time in the Beatles, that volume would be classified as memoirs. In contrast, an autobiography contains the story of a person’s whole life.
Of course, researching for an autobiography is easier than for a biography. For many autobiographers, the challenge is knowing what not to include.
Here are some tips for writing a strong autobiography:
Plan it out. As with any story you want to tell, making an outline is essential. Start with the general structure and then fill in the details. Otherwise, you may find yourself losing track of the timeline. On a related note, you can organize your autobiography year-by-year or focus on different periods of your life as “chunks”. The latter method tends to be very effective for musicians, sports players, and those involved in government.
Don’t be selfish! Yes, writing an autobiography is by nature somewhat “selfish”, though remember that you are writing this book for other people to read, not just yourself. Make sure to include events in your life that will be of interest to an audience, not just stories that are pleasant memories for you.
If you are young, be patient. Surely you may want to write down events in your life for others to read and learn from, but if you are in your 30s or middle-aged, aiming for memoirs would be better.
Don’t violate privacy. People have different degrees of how much they want to expose about themselves, and some of your friends, family, or former colleagues may not want some private stories revealed to the public. This can result in torn relationships or something even worse – lawsuits!
Here are some other autobiographies to check out, to get you started:
- Benjamin Franklin: The Autobiography
- The Autobiography of Benvenuto Cellini
- Bill Clinton, My Life
- Robert Graves, Goodbye to All That
iUniverse has a high regard for autobiography as a literary form, especially with such educating and instructive works as that by Benjamin Franklin. So make that outline, and follow our other tips!