write an autobiography

Write an Autobiography: Writing an Outstanding Book People Want to Read

Ann O'Brien

Ann O'Brien

June 19, 2024

Do you want to write an autobiography? Do you have an interesting life? If you want to leave a record of it, you can write an autobiography that records every memorable experience and shares it with others. There are many good reasons to write your story. Here are some tips to make it interesting and readable.

Why Do You Want to Write an Autobiography?

Before you start, it’s important to focus on the reasons behind your motivation to tell your life story. Many motivational speakers advise that you “always remember your why” when you tackle a large, long-term goal. Authoring a book is a large, long-term goal, and focusing on your why will keep you motivated through the process.

It will also help you shape the book’s narrative. It’s easy to get distracted and go rambling off in a dozen directions when you write an autobiography or memoir. Keeping your focus will help you cut the extraneous stuff and stay on track.

Good Reasons to Write an Autobiography

You’re a celebrity or a leading expert in your field. If you have achieved fame in a particular field, many people will be interested in reading your story. They’ll be curious about your hometown, love life, and family upbringing. They’ll also enjoy anecdotes about other celebrities, artists, or others in your circle. You probably have an amazing collection of photographs to go with your stories, too.

You want to create a family memento. Your story and your family’s are closely intertwined. When you write an autobiography, you can share the most interesting, compelling moments from your family’s history and share it in a memoir. When you write an autobiography, you create a lasting testament to your family’s story that is sure to be valued by current and future generations.

A spiritual awakening has moved you to write. Have you had a spiritual or religious awakening? If you feel the need to tell others how it changed you, you may have a strong belief that it is inspired by a higher power. It’s important to share this experience in a way that, in turn, inspires other people. Spiritual and motivational books can help people find their way to a new way of thinking about life. Spiritual books are a top-selling book category, so it’s clear that a lot of people want this type of guidance.

You enjoy creative pursuits, like writing. You may find it enjoyable to write and reminisce about your life. In this sense, writing an autobiography is like an extended journaling session. You take all your thoughts, reflections, and favorite memories, and put them together in a story about your life. You may not intend to let the world read your book, but it may be a treasure you share with close friends and family members. If you find writing enjoyable, this is an easy way to produce a first-time book. You won’t have to worry about inventing characters or developing a plot, so half the work is already done for you.

History fascinates you, and you want to relate your part in it. Were you part of an interesting or important historical era? Did you personally witness some key event? Your story would be interesting to other students of history looking for unique viewpoints on those events. If you have original documents or photographs to share, they will make your book even more compelling.

Whatever your reasons are to write an autobiography, you will find someone who’s interested in reading it.

Creative a Strong Narrative When You Write an Autobiography

Any good book needs a strong narrative structure, and that includes histories, biographies, and autobiographies. After a lifetime, you have collected hundreds of events and memories. Not all of them need to be included, however. To select the right ones when you write an autobiography, think of your life as a story that’s a gripping page-turner.

What Would a Movie of Your Life Look Like?

Another way to think about it is to imagine a movie being made of your life. It probably wouldn’t include every minute detail but instead focus on major, emotionally driven moments, interesting people, and key life events.

A good novel and a movie share some similarities:

  • Strong plot that includes drama, conflict, and resolution
  • Highly charged emotional events
  • Interesting main characters and side characters
  • Suspenseful moments
  • Action and forward motion
  • Strong finish

If you can fit your life’s story into a simple, powerful plot, you will have the basis ti write an autobiography that people want to read.

Think of Your Life as a Biopic

Think about movies of famous people that you may have seen. Sometimes known as biopics, these movies condense an entire life into a 90-minute series of events. Here are some well-known ones you may have seen.

  • Lawrence of Arabia (1962): Considered a classic of cinematography, David Lean’s movie starred Peter O’Toole as British military officer and diplomat T.E. Lawrence.
  • Milk (2008): Sean Penn won an Oscar for his portrayal of Harvey Milk, the first gay man elected to public office in California.
  • Elvis (2022): Baz Luhrman directed this epic, multi-award winning story of Elvis Presley’s life and death.
  • Ray (2004): Singer Ray Charles personally took part in this production that starred Jamie Foxx in a performance that won an Oscar and a Golden Globe.
  • The Pianist (1992): This harrowing story focuses on Polish musician Władysław Szpilman, who survived life during and after the Holocaust.
  • Coal Miner’s Daughter (1980): Named for her song, this movie traces how Loretta Lynn rose from poverty to stardom as a country singer.

As you go through your documents, photos, memories, and research materials, decide which chapter each will go into. Your goal should be to include everything that’s important while leaving out anything that doesn’t contribute to your plot. Keep asking yourself what you would include in a movie of your life. What would make it interesting to people watching? What would they want to know?

Use Descriptive Language

To write an autobiography that holds a reader’s interest, you need vivid scenes that paint a picture for the reader. Some authors have a natural gift for creating scenes that make the reader feel like they’ve stepped into another time and place. You can learn a lot from reading these writers and seeing how they create vivid images and unforgettable people through the power of their writing.

  • G. K. Chesterton
  • John Irving
  • Gabriel Garcia Marquez
  • Stephen King
  • Tanith Lee
  • Rick Riordan
  • George MacDonald
  • J.K. Rowling
  • C.S. Lewis

You aren’t writing a novel, so you don’t need as much detail, and you don’t need long, meandering passages of a fictional world. You just need enough descriptive material to paint a vivid picture of the places you lived, the people that mattered to you, and the events that most affected you.

Write an autobiography that’s vivid and engaging

Here are some tips for using more descriptive language:

  • Visualize the settings and people. See them clearly in your mind, and home in on the details that make them memorable. Hold the colors, background, and major parts of the scene in your mind.
  • Describe emotions. Certain people and places evoke strong emotions, which are usually connected to your memories. How does a particular memory make you feel, and how can you share that feeling with your reader?
  • Use all your senses. Every place has unique smells, colors, and sounds. Consider the differences between a dockside bar at night and an English cottage garden on a sunny day. You would use completely different words to describe the smells and sights of each one. Incorporate all the senses when you depict a place or person.
  • Don’t go overboard. Nobody wants to read pages of long, descriptive prose in a nonfiction book. When you write an autobiography, you must leave out unnecessary fluff, and that includes long prose passages that belong to a novel.

Tell Your Story to the World

Writing an autobiography is your chance to share your story with the world. Whatever your reasons for writing it are, you can make it enjoyable and interesting to read. If you decide to publish your book, work with a professional printer like Publishing Xpress. We’ll help you print an attractive, bound book that you’ll enjoy sharing.

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