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How to Write an Autobiography – The Best Step by Step Guide

If you quickly scan the list of bestsellers, you will see how obsessed people are with the lives of other people. Whether it is a book about authors themselves, politicians, or sports stars, you will always see a book about remarkable people on the top of the charts. Some of these books are written by a professional writer (biographies) while others are written by people themselves (autobiographies). As fascinating and fun biographies are, autobiographies are even more fascinating and informative. With that in mind, in this article, you can learn how to write an autobiography in the easiest way possible.

What is an Autobiography?

An autobiography is a literary genre and sub-category of biography. And it is written by the subject themselves from their own point of view. People write autobiographies as stories, novels, tales, and diaries closely depicting the events of the subject’s life events.

While writing autobiographies, writers share their wins, losses, and lessons they have learned along the way for readers to relate to and get inspiration from them. Besides, they may also want to leave a legacy for the next generation to help them cut down the gap between both generations.

In addition, an autobiography is written in chronological order. And it is very specific about dates, places, and events. And it includes memories to reflect on how the positive and negative events of the subject’s life shaped them into what they are now at the time of writing the autobiography.

Some popular autobiographies are:

  • A Long Walk to Freedom by Nelson Mandela
  • Dreams from My Father by Barak Obama
  • I am Malala: The Girl Who Stood Up for Education and Was Shot by Taliban by Malala Yousfzai
  • A Moveable Feast by Ernest Hemingway

Autobiography VS Biography

While an autobiography is a tale written by the subject themselves, a biography is written by someone else other than the subject. So, as a biographer, one needs to own great expertise in the subject and their lives. On the other hand, an autobiographer only needs to have expertise on the subject themselves.

Some of the popular Biographies are:

  • Mao: The Unknown Story by Jung Chang
  • Steve Jobs by Walter Isaacson
  • A Beautiful Mind by Sylvia Nasar
  • The Minds of Billy Milligan by Daniel Keyes

Autobiography VS Memoir

Besides biography, it is also sometimes confused with memoirs because both pieces share a lot of common features.

For instance, both the autobiography and memoir are written by the subject themselves and contain details about the subject’s life.

On the other hand, there are clear differences too between the two. For instance, a memoir is usually about a specific period of a person’s life while an autobiography focuses on everything about the subject’s life from the earliest childhood to the time of writing.

Some of the most popular Memoirs are:

  • The Diary of a Young Girl by Anne Frank
  • Educated by Tara Westover
  • On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft by Stephen King
  • Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert

How to Write an Autobiography – The Best Step-by-Step Guide

Now that you know the difference between autobiography, biography, and memoir, you are good to start learning about how to write an autobiography.

So, whether you are a student who has to write an autobiography as a part of his college assignment or you want to write an autobiographical book, it should have three elements:

It should be easy to read, logical, and interesting. An easy way to make it interesting is to add something nobody knows about except you.

In addition, if you want your autobiography to be easy to read, we recommend you follow a set format and structure besides using simple and easy language.

Sounds easy to as say than do?

No worries. Follow the steps below to learn how to write an autobiography.

Step 1: Brainstorm

The first step of writing an autobiography is brainstorming and exploring your background including all the life experiences the reader might be interested in. Take enough time and recall memories of all the areas and periods of your life.

Then, go through each of them to decide which to include in your autobiography by talking with your parents, siblings, grandparents, cousins, and friends.

Besides, you can ask your close ones to tell a favorite story from your life because there is a lot of chance that they might remember something exciting that you can not recall. In addition, you can also look at a family photo album or a diary if you keep one.

Then, you can ask the following question to figure out what you want to include in your autobiography.

  • What are my most significant achievements?
  • Do I remember my biggest failures?
  • Are there any lessons I learned from these failures?
  • Can I name some best and worst moments of my life?
  • What events have changed my life?
  • How have I changed?
  • Are there people or events that helped me shape my life?

Step 2: Choose a Central Idea

While writing an autobiography, people build the entire story around a core idea. This idea is the center of your autobiography. So, after you are done brainstorming, you can choose a central idea for your autobiography. In an essay, the central idea is called the thesis of your essay.

How to find out the core idea for your autobiography?

Here are a few things you can do to find the central idea of your autobiography.

  • Choose a personality trait that you think makes you an awesome person. For instance, you might be great at time management, art, or math. So, why not make it the base of your story.
  • What is the philosophy of your life? Figure out what you really believe in as a human and what makes you a valuable part of society.
  • Find out what is the most significant concept of your life or what you value most. For instance, it can be friendship, education, love, family, wealth, or freedom. You can figure it out and use it as the core element of your autobiography.

Step 3: Choose a Format

One of the most important things that you need to consider while writing an essay is to choose a format. Usually, when teachers assign students essays, reports, autobiographies, or any kind of paper, they provide all the instruction including the format. However, if you do not have a predefined format, you can choose one yourself.

So, you can consider it a standard essay if you are not a professional writer. However, unlike an essay, it is more like a story that focuses on a specific subject and his experiences. So, you can feel free to use dialogues or visuals like a magazine or blog.

All in all, you can choose to write your autobiographies like an essay that includes an introduction, the body, and the conclusion all of which circulate around a central idea.

Step 4: Write Your Autobiography

Once you choose a format you want your autobiography to structure, you are good to start writing your autobiography. This is also the main and longest part of your autobiography writing process. You can still divide it into two sections: creating an outline and writing your first draft.

Create an outline

No matter what format you choose to follow, creating an outline can be very useful to stay organized while writing an autobiography. You can consider it to be similar to a standard essay outline.

Since your autobiography contains the same three sections including the introduction, body, and conclusion. You can take a piece of paper and write everything in bullet points. Besides, while writing the body of your autobiography, you can choose to divide it into sections from medium to high-interest areas.

For instance, you can decide who has the most impact on your life which you accordingly decide to add.

Write Your First Draft

Now that you have everything to start writing your autobiography, you can start writing your first draft. It may seem too long and time-consuming at first. But you do not need to worry.

In the first draft, we suggest you just write, write, and write. It is okay if you make mistakes. Because you can correct them later. In this section, the outline is most useful. You can the outline to explain and illustrate everything in detail.

Step 5: Proofread

The last step of writing an autobiography is to proofread your first draft. In this section, you will reread your draft and check if there are any mistakes to correct or gaps that you can fill. Besides, you can also add or exclude any details that you think do not add value to your autobiography.

In this section, you can also take help from any friend or a professional writer to make sure that everything is on point.

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