Writing an autobiography, the story of your life, is not just for the rich and famous. We all have our own tales to tell. Writing your autobiography could help you to understand and assimilate your life experiences. Or you could just find it rewarding to capture your memories for future generations.
- Skill level:
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Things you need
- Home computer
- Dictation recorder
Access as much archive material, like photographs, official forms and press clippings, as your family possesses. Talk to family members, gathering their impressions of you as a child. Take written notes, or use a dictation recorder, if they are comfortable with this. Talk to childhood friends about the times you shared.
Write down your account of your childhood using the data you have gathered to corroborate and structure your memories. Use either a pen and paper or your home computer.
Using the methods outlined in Steps 1 and 2, write down the facts and opinions that best describe the various stages of your life, from schooldays through your working life to retirement, if applicable. Cutting your life story into sections will make the task more manageable. Collate as much data as you can before starting to write. This helps you keep your narrative orderly and accurate.
Write all the sections you deem necessary and collect them in an initial draft document. Check the document for spelling and grammatical errors. Use a dictionary to ensure you have used words correctly and a thesaurus, to avoid over-reliance upon particular words.
If you intend to submit the document to publishers, ask someone with good language skills to proofread it. Incorporate their changes into the document before submitting it. If you have written the autobiography for your personal satisfaction or to pass on to family members later, store it securely until the time comes for it to be read.
Tips and warnings
- Make backup copies of any files you create on your computer, as a document could become corrupted or the computer could malfunction. Regularly save your work to an external hard drive, compact disc or DVD, or attach the document to an e-mail and send it to yourself.
- For simplicity, keep the narrative linear, moving from one period of time to the next in order. It might be tempting to follow a thread involving a character in your life from one time to another, but it could be confusing for readers if the story jumps backward and forward in time. If someone has been involved in your life for a long time, her story will naturally weave through your narrative.
- Be prepared for the consequences of publishing your life story, especially if you include compromising or controversial material. Think carefully about what you include. Are there details of your private life that should be suppressed? Releasing certain facts or opinions into the public domain could embarrass or upset your loved ones. Furthermore, publishing allegations about other people's conduct that you cannot prove could lead to legal action being taken against you, for defamation.
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