Sitting beside my father as he made an Excel sheet of our family tree, it dawned on me that all these people, with their dreams, hopes, likes and dislikes, had a unique story to tell. But as time took its toll, most of these stories have been forgotten. A majority of us want to leave a part of ourselves behind, stories to be remembered by and a good way to get that done is to write an autobiography.
Now that we’ve gotten the ‘why-to-write-an-autobiography’ out of the way, let’s get to the gritty how.
It’s silly to think that you would be expected to catalogue your whole life, down to the most mundane detail. So the obvious first step is to pick a story. You can choose a single substantial story or you can choose a string of them.
The next step is to chalk out your timeline. As an autobiography, the book will be based on facts and its imperative the author does not deter from it. Including family history and your culture is always a good step as it gives more depth to your story.
If you are writing a string of stories, you may want to mention the highlighting ones. Like a childhood story that taught a valuable life lesson or a mid-life crisis story that shaped you as a person.
Once you’ve got your resources, it’s time to structure your book. Create a interesting story arc. Bring out a core conflict like an addiction or fear that had a big impact on your life. It is important that your story is engaging. You should find it engaging because if you don’t then how do you expect the rest of us to?
It should have tension that will build up to an astounding climax. Your audience should root for you. It must end with a resolution, preferably, a happy one. Even if it’s not the case you should come out of it as a changed person and should make peace with things going wrong. An unsatisfying ending is always the worst.
To make your book more creative you can choose unconventional ways to write it. You can choose to tell your story through a series of flashbacks or you can mix up the timeline with going back and forth from the present to childhood to the work years and juggle between them.
Enrich your story with funny or poignant anecdotes. But make sure to only mention the ones that somehow contribute to your story.
Work with recurring issue. Like an attitude towards certain seasons or the will to visit certain place, a person you keep falling back on. Something consistent throughout your life, or go with the opposite, inconsistency throughout life.
Stick with values and themes. The flashbacks and the mini stories that you’ll slip in should teach something valuable. Let your readers be inspired from them.
Be honest. I have mentioned before how important it is to be factual and it can’t be stressed enough. If you mention incorrect things about other people, it can land you into serious trouble. When I ask you to be honest I also ask you to be open. There is nothing better than a heartfelt novel with vivid emotions, however unsightly and disagreeable they may be.
The next step is to edit the book. Start with reorganising your work. Cut out the irrelevant part, word your sentences in a more eloquent way and check your grammar. Double check facts like names, events and dates. Remember to get permission to use names and the things they said or did. Try to not edit the book yourself. You are likely to get frugal while cutting off parts.
Share your manuscript with other people. They could give you some valuable insights.
Once you’re happy with what you have, you think about publishing. A method used commonly today is to look up publishing online. You can go for a publishing house or you can go for self-publishing. If you’re writing your autobiography with the intention of letting it remain in the family, approaching a publishing house is not necessary. However, if you’re planning to commercialize your work you might want to consider them. If you have any query regarding publishing, you can always approach us!
Key points to keep in mind:
- Pick a story you want to tell. Use interesting characters to move this story along.
- Keep your timeline handy. You can’t go wrong with facts.
- Use new ways to write the book. Don’t go down the most obvious road of starting from childhood.
- Keep your story engaging and absorbing.
- Be open and honest.
- Remember this is your Write it in your words. No need for complex words if you don’t talk like that. Be you.
- Editing the book yourself may not be the best idea. There may be memories that you love going back to that others may find dull. Hire a copy editor if you can.
- Stay focused.
- And lastly, have fun. You may pressurize yourself to get the work done but it has to be pleasurable to you for others to find it the same.
Writing an autobiography can teach you a lot about yourself. It’s an enlightening experience that you shouldn’t shy away from because you think your life hasn’t been dramatic enough. Of all the book genres, the most rousing and inspiring is an autobiography. So write one, regardless of whether you choose to share it with world or just your family because it is sure to inspire generations to come.