Autobiography: How to Write a Book about Your Incredible Life

Salmaan Ahmad

Salmaan Ahmad

September 7, 2023

Would your auobiography make a thrilling read? If you’d like to relive—and share—the most significant parts of your life, consider writing a book about your life.

Who Should Write an Autobiography

Anyone can write their life story. Sometimes called a memoir, an autobiography is often used to relate a larger message. A memoir may be about newsworthy events or people, or it may be a collection of stories about a particular family. Every autobiography is unique because each tells a different story and has a different aim.

Ask yourself: What is the aim of your autobiography? Why would someone want to read a book about your life? Here are some situations when your autobiography would be a hot item and a possible best-seller.

  • You’re a celebrity.
  • You’re a leader in your field or profession.
  • You’ve invented, written, or created something most people know about.
  • You performed heroic actions.
  • You’ve done something most people only dream about doing.
  • You witnessed or were part of a newsworthy event.

What if none of this applies? Should you reconsider writing an autobiography? Even if you’re not a celebrity, you might have good reasons to think your life story would be of interest to others.

Good Reasons to Write an Autobiography

  • To tell your side of the story: If you were involved in a significant historic event, legal issue, or a highly publicized news event, you may be concerned about the way you were depicted. Writing an autobiography will help you set the record straight and allow you to voice your viewpoint.
  • To leave a family legacy: Your family will enjoy reading a book about your life. In it, you can detail all your favorite memories, verify dates, recount key events, and share the things that you want them to remember about you. Expand your subject to include your whole family in your autobiography. Your family will appreciate reading the family history from your unique perspective.
  • To tell the world what it was really like: Were you part of a major historic event? Did you work with someone famous? Do you have the inside dirt on anything? Was your work part of a major development in your field? If you have ever stood out in your professional or personal life in any way, people will want to know the details. Tell them what it was like to work with that well-known actor, or describe the details of inventing your award-winning gadget. Most readers enjoy getting the insider’s view of the things that interest them.
  • To inspire others: If you’ve experienced something that affected you deeply, you may feel a need to share that experience with others. Some people write books about being the victims of crime, surviving extreme situations, overcoming addictions, finding comfort in religion, or starting over late in life. These are just a handful of inspiring stories that many readers enjoy. By sharing your struggles and successes, you offer them a way to cope with their own situation.

How to Write Your Autobiography in 4 Steps

1. Find your focus

Is your book going to focus on certain key events, or will it be a full autobiography going back to your childhood and including the present day? Finding a focus for your book is a key part of writing your story.

If you want to write your full life story, you may have to do some research. Start by asking family members for their help with any memories and with documentary evidence like letters, family photo albums, home movies, and other people’s recollections. Check your old journals, diaries, and appointment books to verify dates and locations.

Yes, you really do have to research your own life. We may think we remember everything in sharp detail about ourselves, but memories can be fuzzy. You might be certain you were in San Diego in July 2003, but your sister swears you visited her in a Boston hospital for the birth of her child during that month. Who’s right? If the detail isn’t that important, let it go, but make sure you get the facts right for any major happenings.

If you’re zeroing in on specific events, devote most of the book to these moments, but include some information on how you got there. What led you to that particular spot on that particular day? How did the events you’re describing unfold?

Start by figuring out what you want your book to focus on, and stick to that. Leave out anything that isn’t directly related to your story.

2. Create a structure and outline

To keep yourself focused, it is a good idea to write an outline of your book’s structure. There are many ways to write an autobiography. Here are some to consider.

Chronological format: This is the traditional way to write an autobiography. You begin with your birth or early childhood and mention some key happenings that surrounded it.

What was the historical period of your childhood? What things were happening in society or the world, and how did they affect your childhood and young adulthood? What lessons did you learn then that stay with you today? Tell the full story of where and how you grew up, went to school, and started your career.

Describe meeting your spouse or partner. Is it a love story, or is it a warning to others? Tell the reader what happened to the most significant people in your life.

Memoir style: A memoir is not a chronological account. It’s a book that details specific events and memories related to a family or an event. If your family is noteworthy, you may find yourself writing a compelling family memoir. If you’re a family member who did something noteworthy, skip the chronology and get to the main events. Your readers want to know the insider story that only you can share.

If you use a memoir format, describe why you’re the best person to tell this story. Establish why you should be trusted as an authority on what really happened. How did you get there, to that place or to the middle of those events? What led you to be there at that moment in time? How were you involved in the events that happened, and how did they affect you? Skip the early chronology part of your autobiography and take the reader directly to the action.

Story collection: In a story collection, you use each chapter to tell a short story from your life. These may be connected by a theme, but the overall idea is to paint a colorful picture of your life, your struggles, your joys, and your accomplishments. Each story should be well-structured with a conflict, resolution, and ending. Try a mix of stories about your personal life, encounters with significant people, important events, and particular days that you want to share with the reader.

3. Start writing

There’s no way around it. You have to put in the work and start writing your life autobiography.

Every successful, published author knows that writing a book starts with a writing routine. When you set out to write a book about your life, your dedication to that routine will keep you on track.

Decide how much time you can set aside each day for writing, and try to stick to your schedule. Even if you can only carve out an hour a day, use that hour faithfully, and watch your book take shape.

4. Include illustrations

Even the most avid reader of your life biography will be turned off by page after page of text blocks. Break up your book with graphic elements. Make sure to include a variety of drawings, artwork, charts, historical documents, and photographs. They’ll make your book lively and readable.

How to Publish Your Autobiography

You’ve done the hard work. You found your focus, set aside time to write, and now you have a finished book. Congratulations—but your work is only partly done. Now, you must publish your book.

That’s where Publishing Xpress comes in. We are a full-service printing company, and we specialize in working with self-published authors who want to see themselves in print. When you’re ready to share your life story, talk to us.

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