Your autobiography is an account of your life. Written by you, it contains all the names, dates, places, descriptions and other details necessary to track your life story from birth to the present.
Your autobiography tells the reader who you are, what you’ve done, where you’ve been, what has happened to you, and which people have played important roles in your life. Nothing is invented and no key details are omitted.
Think of it as containing your life’s “DNA” – all the information needed to recreate your entire life story.
What Is An Autobiography? More Than a Simple List
And yet, your autobiography should be more than a simple retelling of facts in chronological order, as in: “First this happened, then that happened, then she said, then I traveled to….” While you want to present a complete picture of your life, it’s best to highlight certain aspects of it, such as your family, career, inventions, years abroad, or whatever makes you interesting to other people.
A retired Army general, for example, might focus on her years in uniform. She would cover her entire life, but trim away a fair amount of the non-military material.
A child actor whose career has faded might focus on the early years when he was starring in his own TV show and making movies. A discussion of the obscure years would be present in the book, but receive less attention.
When writing your autobiography, present your entire life but emphasize the most interesting, dramatic, or exciting time of your life.
You might also consider including your thoughts and feelings as you relay what has happened to you; it will make for a much more interesting read. But while weaving your thoughts and feelings into the story is a good idea, the true emphasis should be on relaying all the important facts.
What is An Autobiography? It’s Not a Memoir!
If you’d prefer to focus heavily on your feelings, or examine only one part of your life, consider writing a memoir rather than an autobiography. The two forms – autobiography and memoir – are similar, but the autobiography presents the author’s entire life, from birth to present, while the memoir focus on the author’s responses to a particular time in her life.
If you’re not sure where or how to begin, consider some of these ideas on how to start an autobiography.
If you’d like to learn more about writing your life story…
…see my “Memoir Ghostwriter” page.
I’m Barry Fox, a New York Times bestselling author and ghostwriter. If you need help writing your autobiography or memoir, give me a call at 818-917-5362.