Autobiography how to write one

writing an autobiography


Autobiography home

How to write your life story

I’m an editor, a book editor at that, and I have seen and edited autobiographies, I’ve also published several million words on a variety of subjects. So I know something about writing.

This article will give you the basics on how to write your autobiography, and guidelines on related subjects such as copyright, editing, publishing and legal concerns.

Different aspects are dealt with on the left menu.

You might find bits of this article discouraging, that’s because serious publishing is very (very!) hard to get into and there is one basic rule "anyone who can be dissuaded from writing, should be" – but if you read this and you still want to do it: Go for it!

So, you think you’re interesting?
There are a lot of reasons for wanting to write an autobiography, some of them are good and some of them are bad.

Here are the main bad ones:

"To make a load of money"
Unless you are a celebrity: forget it, you won’t. There is one other possibility: you are a fantastic writer with an amazing story to tell, and you can tell it in an utterly riveting way that will appeal to the mass-market. In which case, you don’t need to read this.

Nasty. The only problem here is that no one else is going to be interested, so there’s no revenge. There are legal risks as well. Merely changing the names is not enough. It might as well be fiction, you’d be safer.

"Revise history"
You don’t like the truth so you’re trying to pretend it all happened differently. In which case you’re writing fiction instead. Legal risks here too, and potential ridicule if anyone actually does read your story.

How about some good reasons:

"You want people to know"
You have a real story to tell and people need to know the truth, perhaps it’s a lesson in how not to live a life.

"Pass on family history"
Immortality for some? You don’t want the experiences of your life to be lost to future generations.

Sometimes the best way to end-cycle on a traumatic incident is to get it out into the open. Though perhaps this is best for you than others, it might have involved them too and they need to know.