Expert Tips for Writing a Killer Autobiography

01 Jul 2022


“When you write down your life, every page should contain something no one has ever heard about.” — Elias Canetti

More often than not, the thought of an autobiography conjures thoughts of famous individuals and historical figures.

The truth is that you don’t need to be the president of a country or a war hero to chronicle your life’s story. Everyone has a wonderful story to tell.

Some folks go through incredible life journeys. Others work hard for years as they reach singular achievements. It doesn’t matter where you come from. What matters is the journey you’ve lived.

If you’ve ever thought about penning your story, or if you’re currently on that road, here are five expert tips that will help you write a killer autobiography.

5 Expert Tips for Writing a Killer Autobiography

1. It’s all about your journey.

Your autobiography is all about your journey. As such, your focus must be on telling your entire life story.

Sure, some parts may be more interesting than others. There may also be extraordinary moments in your life.

Nevertheless, these moments don’t happen in isolation. There is an entire backstory that leads to these unique events.

If you think that readers aren’t interested in your whole story, think again.

Readers want details. They want context.

They want to know what makes you tick.

Regaling your readers with cool stories and fun anecdotes is all well and fine. However, you’ll lose them without putting your entire life story into focus.

Think about it this way.

An athlete writes about their proudest moment: winning an Olympic medal. While that is a great achievement, readers want to know the story behind that medal.

Readers crave a narrative detailing how an ordinary person achieved an extraordinary feat. Otherwise, your autobiography might sound like you’re just tooting your own horn.

There is something else to consider. An autobiography is about your entire life. Therefore, readers want to know about your childhood, teenage years, singular moments, and even failures.

Readers want the whole enchilada, so to speak.

If you plan to focus on individual events, then you might be better off writing a memoir. A memoir differs from an autobiography in that it focuses on singular events without telling one’s entire life story.

Never forget: Your autobiography is all about your journey. So, don’t be stingy. Give readers what they want. You might be surprised to find how much readers crave to know about your whole life, not just snippets of it.

2. The devil is in the details.

A great autobiography pays close attention to detail. After all, the devil is in the details.

Details are key since they help readers get the full picture of what your story is all about. Without details, readers may get the feeling they’re missing out on something.

Think about it…Why do readers dive into an autobiography?

They want to get details they wouldn’t be able to get anywhere else. They expect to get insider information.

When you deliver, your autobiography becomes a true page-turner.

Please bear in mind that details help frame the entire journey. They provide depth and substance to the narrative.

However, there is one caveat: The details you include must be relevant to the story. They must contribute meaningfully to the story you are looking to tell. Otherwise, you may create a disconnect between your readers’ expectations and the story itself.

Above all, salacious or inappropriate details may derail your autobiography’s purpose. So, it’s always a good rule of thumb to carefully review what details go into your autobiography’s final draft.

3. Consistency is the key.

Consistency is crucial when it comes to crafting a gripping autobiography. In particular, consistency applies to the overarching narrative you seek to build. This narrative must be consistent with your theme.

So, ask yourself the following questions:

  • What is my autobiography’s major theme?
  • What message do I want to convey to my readers?
  • What do I want my readers to take away from my story?

Think about it this way:

  • Your book’s theme, or themes, ought to focus on aspects such as courage, resiliency, compassion, and love, for example. These themes ought to underscore your autobiography’s overarching structure. In doing so, you’ll give your readers something to look forward to as they navigate through every page.
  • Your message must focus on what you want to tell the world. In other words, your autobiography’s message should reveal your motivation for writing your story. For example, your purpose may center on telling folks to follow their dreams in spite of adversity. This message must be patent throughout the story. Moreover, your story’s details must support your theme.
  • When you think about what you want your readers to take away, you must think about what feeling you want your readers to have when they finish the final page. Do you want them to feel inspired? Are you looking to create awareness? Whatever your specific aim, your story needs to leave readers with something they can hold on to after finishing the last page.

As you build your message within your overarching theme, please don’t neglect following a clear, chronological order.

How so?

A common mistake is leapfrogging from one event to another. Some writers like to start from the end and work their way back.

While that is an effective approach in creative fiction, it is not the most appropriate for an autobiography.

Leapfrogging from one moment to another may create confusion in your readers, who may get tangled up in the details.

Moreover, you may need long and highly detailed discussions to unravel the main points in your story.

4. Keep it real.

One of the most important factors in every great autobiography is keeping it real. After all, readers want to hear the truth in your words.

They want the real deal. They want the truth—even if they can’t handle it!

Seriously, though, readers want to learn about events just as they occurred.

While it may be fun to play around with facts, in reality, readers expect you to be as accurate as possible.

Indeed, accurately depicting events is key. Depicting characters accurately, however, is even more so.

Readers want to hear about the characters in your life as clearly as possible. Naturally, readers will get your perspective. While that is absolutely fine, you must make an effort to portray other characters just as they really are.

Consider this situation:

Some characters may be villains in your life. They may have hurt you in some way. Nevertheless, it would be best if you resisted the temptation to bash them in your narrative.

You must, instead, try to be as objective as possible. In doing so, readers will see that you’re objective. They will understand that you want to paint the reality of your life and not what you intend people to believe.

Describing one’s parents is a common pitfall in autobiographies.

When folks have great parents, they tend to glorify them, often overlooking their faults. Therefore, it is important to praise their great qualities but also shed some light on their missteps.

On the flip side, when folks have terrible parents, they may completely disregard their parents’ good points.

It’s only fair to also shed light on the good things that bad parents did at one point or another.

In some cases, there are characters that cause great harm. But it’s these bad characters and negative experiences that enable the story to unfold.

For instance, a coach tells you that you’re too short to play basketball. So instead of overly vilifying this individual, the narrative can reflect their role in fueling you to be the best basketball player you could be.

Please remember that always keeping it real should be your top priority. Readers expect to hear your truth. So, lay it on the table for them to see.

5. Don’t sweat minor details.

A major caveat of an autobiography is dwelling too much on minor details. Throughout this discussion, we’ve drilled down on the importance of providing accurate details. Focusing too much on details, however, may lead you to include minute or inconsequential details.

So, how can you tell which details are important?

Always ask yourself: How does this information contribute to my overall narrative? The answer to that question ought to determine what information to include.

Consider this situation:

When describing your childhood, there are key moments that define your life. These key moments are what readers want to know about.

These events ought to help you build your narrative as you traverse your path.

In contrast, including too many details, such as what you had for lunch at school every day, may not necessarily contribute to your overall purpose.

One way to add depth to your story is to include photographs. After all, a picture is worth a thousand words! Including photographs and images can help save you valuable space.

For example, instead of describing your childhood home, including a photograph can help save writing time while giving readers a perfect sense of where you grew up.

How can a ghostwriter help write a killer autobiography?

Writing a killer autobiography is a painstaking endeavor. It requires time and dedication. It also demands special attention to your writing skills.

Unfortunately, there may be times when you may run into some obstacles along the way. At that point, a ghostwriter can come to the rescue.

So, how exactly can a ghostwriter help you write a killer autobiography?

Ghostwriters are experienced professionals. They have the know-how and experience to craft a wonderful narrative. They can take your life’s story and transform it into a seamless narrative. Best of all, a ghostwriter can capture your voice.

At first, that may seem unlikely. In reality, a professional ghostwriter has the skills to build a narrative that is consistent with your personality. An experienced ghostwriter can take the information you provide them to depict your life’s journey accurately.

How can a ghostwriter capture your voice?

A professional ghostwriter typically begins by talking with you. They help you discover your overarching theme and message. From there, they take the information you provide to build the narrative while capturing your voice.

This process includes interviews, reviewing documents, examining photos, and doing research. From there, a professional ghostwriter can gather the information to construct your life’s narrative.

The best part of working with a ghostwriter is that you get a say in every step of the process. You have full control over the entire process. Your trusted ghostwriter takes your instructions to build what you want people to see.

It’s like having an architect take your design vision to build the house of your dreams.

In this case, you’re not building a house. You’re building a structure that represents your life. You’re like an Egyptian pharaoh getting a pyramid sculpted in your honor.

A ghostwriter may be the perfect way to get the ball rolling if you’re still on the fence about your autobiography.

If you’ve started writing, but have gotten stuck somewhere, don’t let your project linger. Talk to a ghostwriter. They can help you fulfill one of the most ambitious projects anyone can undertake: telling their story to the world.


Preserve your legacy

Before you go…

When most folks think of working with a ghostwriter, they believe they must share credit with them. However, that is only true if you want it. There is no need to share credit with a ghostwriter. A ghostwriter is a professional writer who understands that  your autobiography is yours and yours alone.

A great alternative is to work with a ghostwriting agency. A ghostwriting agency is a team of writers that work with you to build your autobiography. Ghostwriting agencies have a number of qualified staff members who can help you build the autobiography you have always wanted.

If you’re still on the fence about working with a ghostwriter, working with a ghostwriting agency can put your mind at ease. If working with a professional ghostwriter is great, imagine working with an entire team!

Zach Richter 

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