How to Write an Autobiography

How to Write an Autobiography

Autobiographies are commonly published by celebrities but it is not a must that you become a celebrity to know how to write an autobiography. An autobiography refers to a written account of the life of a person that the same person writes- Simply put, it is a story that a person writes about himself or herself. Anybody can write an autobiography because we all have something fascinating that we can share with others.

Understanding it’s importance will help you know how to write an autobiography

To write a great autobiography, treat it the way you would treat a good story. Know the reason for writing your life story. The first thing that you should do is to ask yourself, why are you writing an autobiography? Know what motivates you before you start the writing process. Spend some of your time pondering on this question to clarify your thoughts and purpose. This way, you will focus on what is vital for your autobiography.

You may write an autobiography to:

  • Pass the history of your family to the future generations.
  • To record personal history
  • To record your work history
  • To record your community work
  • To share your personal philosophies and values
  • To tell people about personal transformation that you underwent in life

These are some of the reasons that you may have for writing the autobiography. Once you have known the reasons for writing the autobiography, they will motivate you throughout the writing process.

A step-by-step guide on how to write an autobiography

List down the things to include in the autobiography

Think about things that will be relevant and interesting to your readers. Remember that different readers will be interested in different things when reading your autobiography. Therefore, think about such things and make them the subjects or themes of your autobiography. For instance, you can list down places, people, experiences and events.

  • People

In your list of people, include everyone who has influenced your life as an adult, a teenager or a child. Tell readers what such people mean to you and what they were like. Also tell readers what such people liked, how they behaved towards you and what you learnt from them as well as the experiences that you shared and their impact on your life. Such people can be your parents, siblings, teachers, coworkers and neighbors among others.

The people that you include in the autobiography will make it interesting to readers. Your autobiography will be more interesting if you bring out main characters and tell readers how you interacted with them and the opinions that you formed about them-

  • Places

In the list of places, include the places where you lived as an adult, a teenager or a child. Tell readers how these places were, their significance and how they changed you. Such places can be a city, a suburb, a farm or a town.

  • Experiences and events

Come up with a list of as many life experiences and events as possible. You should have a notebook with you everywhere you go so that you can list down any important experience or event that you remember.

Life experiences and events can include:

  • Something that you did while living somewhere.
  • Something about your favorite aunt or uncle.
  • Places that you have visited and things that you did while there such as studying.
  • Something that you saw while visiting a place.
  • Birth of new children in your family, marriages and other ceremonies that you may have attended.

By listing down people, places, experiences and events, you will realize that ideas will start flowing as you recall all fascinating things about or in your life.

Decide on the style of your autobiography

You can tell your life story in different ways after listing down the main elements of an autobiography. Therefore, decide on the style to use in telling your story.

  • Viewpoint

What viewpoint will you use in telling the story? Will you use first person or another person’s viewpoint? Most autobiographies are written in first person. Perhaps, this is because you are telling people about your own experiences.


“My sister and I waited for a train at the railway station for hours despite the blowing, cold winds of the evening. When the train finally arrived, its smoke entered my eyes making them watery such that I could not see clearly while boarding the train.”

You can also write the autobiography in another person’s perspective.


“Henry and his sister waited for a train at the railway station for hours despite the blowing, cold winds of the evening. When the train finally arrived, its smoke entered his eyes making them watery such that he could not see clearly while boarding the train.”

The fist example indicates that Henry is telling his story while the second example shows the same story about Henry being told from another person’s viewpoint. Although both are effective ways of writing an autobiography, first person as indicated by the first example is more powerful than another person’s viewpoint.

Structure your autobiography

How you structure your autobiography is very important and it tells your readers if you really know how to write an autobiography.

To structure the autobiography:

  • Organize the list that you developed in step 1.

This entails getting a different notebook and listing the most important things first. Though there is no specific way of structuring an autobiography, you may want to start with the most interesting and important facts to capture the attention of the readers. You can use photos and documents to recall the details of most important things in life. In this step, list down things that match the people, places, experiences and events that you listed earlier. Organize them in a way that you would like them to appear in your autobiography.

  • Identify themes

There are themes that will emerge when you read the things that you have listed during organization. Such themes may include love, family, perseverance, achievements, lost love, work, and traveling among others. Maybe one theme is dominant. Explore experiences and events that will enable you to gather more details or information for the themes of your autobiography.

  • Focus

After listing down everything including places, characters, experiences and events, do not struggle to tell the story chronologically. A chronological organization of thoughts will give your autobiography an outline but it is not a must that you tell your life story this way. However, you can come up with an outline that will enable you to focus on ideas, structure and theme of the autobiography- The most important thing is to decide whether you will tell a story of your entire life or simply concentrate on a specific theme or themes, or specific series and time.


Once you have made this decision, present the story in a way that you find best and start telling it from anywhere. You can start the autobiography by telling a story of a person, event or place then move on to something different. Just write in a way that motivates and inspires you to keep writing. You may pick a subject of the autobiography, write about it in a notebook and once you are done writing about it, take a break to admire your developing autobiography. Move on to another subject and write it in a different notebook.

When nearing the conclusion, bring together the notebooks and reorder them to make a single story. You can reorder some aspects of the story in order to present your story properly. The overall structure of the autobiography should help you in reorganizing the subjects of the autobiography. Make sure that you come up with a table of content after writing and organizing the autobiography.

Edit the autobiography

You may know how to write an autobiography but if you do not take time to edit your story, minor mistakes will ruin it. Therefore, edit your autobiography to ensure that it includes only the most important and interesting information such as your triumphs and struggles, difficult decisions that you had to make and strong emotions among others. Eliminate grammatical, typo and spelling errors.

After writing and editing the autobiography, distance yourself from it for a while and then come back. Read through it to ensure that it tells your life story the way you want without mistakes.

Bonus tips on how to write an autobiography

  • Tell the most interesting experiences to make your story more compelling-
  • Make the story vivid throughout without including unimportant details.
  • Include a foreword, dedication, vital statistics and epilogue.
  • Include memorabilia if you are passing a story to heirs through your autobiography.

You can get a sample autobiography here.

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