Tips to Writing an Autobiography Outline

Tips to Writing an Autobiography Outline

Whether you are writing your autobiography or helping another person write one, tips to writing an autobiography outline enable you to maintain the focus of a narrative structure of an autobiography. An autobiography refers to the account of the life of an individual written by the same individual. It is a description or elaboration of the details of the entire life of an individual, in a historical, factual context.

The focus of an autobiography is on the events that have occurred in the life of a person and how they have shaped, influenced or changed their individuality and character. An autobiography outline is a description of how the autobiography will be written. It indicates how information and ideas will be organized in order to maintain a smooth and logical flow.

Bellow is a list of tips to writing an autobiography outline


To write a great autobiography, you need facts organization and recollection. This calls for mental planning in order to determine how to do this. You must know the steps to follow from the start to the end. Planning enables you to have a roadmap that you will follow in writing the entire autobiography. Make sure that everything that you do in the process is considered in the initial plan.

Create a working title

An autobiography is a book. You must have a title for that book. The title acts as your guide or main theme throughout the writing process. Keep that title in mind while doing everything else.

Examples of titles of great autobiographies include:

  • The long walk to Freedom-Nelson Mandela
  • Just As I Am-Billy Graham
  • I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings-Maya Angelou

Underline or write the title in a bold font to differentiate it from the other part of the outline. Everything that you include in the outline should be related to or in support of the title of the autobiography outline. Perhaps, this is one of the most important tips to writing an autobiography outline.

Establish the focal point of the autobiography

This is the motivation or driving force that compels you to write the autobiography. Write a maximum of five elements that motivate you to write the autobiography. While writing these elements in the outline, consider your reader. Ask yourself; what are the major points that the reader should know and comprehend after reading the autobiography? Such points could be how your childhood influenced you to be the person that you are now or how you worked hard to amass your current wealth. It could also be how you learnt about the ultimate sacrifice that your parents made so that you can be who you are. Summarize these points so that they can be at most five.

Decide on the flow of your autobiography

This entails determining how you will present information in the autobiography. For instance, will you employ flashbacks? Can a linear timeline be appropriate for the autobiography? Will you include experiences and stories of different periods of your life? This step is very important in the autobiography outlining process because it helps you in determining the best way of starting and ending the journey with your reader. Make sure that the style that you adapt enables the readers to follow you. You may want to change the flow of the autobiography later but having this guideline makes your autobiography’s flow better.

Organize autobiography’s chapters

Your autobiography will have several chapters. It is important to organize them before you start writing. Start by formulating chapters. These can include parts, sections, scenes or acts of the book. For example, if you want to adapt a straightforward timeframe in writing the autobiography, you can start the first chapter with your birth. The second chapter can be about your childhood years. Note that there is no specific organization of the autobiography chapter but the information should flow smoothly and logically.

Here, one of the major tips to writing an autobiography outline is to have a chronology of chapter titles or subheadings of the autobiography in the outline. These can be categorized as birth, childhood, your teen years, your youth, adulthood and then middle age. The chapters can also be organized on the basis of the locations that you moved to in your lifetime or any other criteria that enables you to tell the story better.

Key obstacles

Under every chapter, list the major points. You can use bullets or numbers to mark them. They can also be indented. Include ages or dates of the facts. You can have a list of events or names of the key moments of your life as well as the challenges or influences that they had on you. You can also list your responses to such occurrences. Among the major tips to writing an autobiography here include listing obstacles that will interest readers instead of successes and happiness moments. However, this does not imply that you will ignore your happy moments. The fact is that people are interested in reading stories of challenges that people face and how they overcome them to achieve their goals. A dramatic movement or event plays a vital role in making an autobiography interesting.

Elaborate the key obstacles

After listing the major obstacles or events in your life, elaborate them by listing everything that you can remember about these obstacles. You do not have to include all of them in the autobiography but listing them enables you to choose the best that will illustrate each obstacle or challenge better. While listing them, use your title to guide you. For instance, if you say, ‘despite my humble background, I knew that I would eventually become a great pianist when I was ten years old’; tell the reader what made you so sure that you will become a great pianist. Use one or two points to tell readers about your humble background and the events that made you certain that you would eventually become a successful pianist.

Include concrete details instead of abstract concepts

Being a roadmap for writing the autobiography, your outline should include concrete details. Readers will not read a boring autobiography. Using concrete details will make your autobiography more interesting and appealing to the readers. For instance, instead of saying ‘I was very afraid’ you can say ‘my hands were shaking terribly’. You can read other autobiographies such as Just as I am by Billy Graham; I know why the Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou or Long Walk to Freedom by Nelson Mandela to learn how to outline concrete details instead of abstract details in an autobiography.

Have another person look at the outline

This is one of the tips to writing an autobiography that can easily be ignored despite being very important. Before you embark on writing the autobiography, let someone else go through the outline and give you their feedback. This can be a hired professional or a trusted person. Once they give you feedback, evaluate it in relation to your outline. Note that it is not a must that you change the outline as per their feedback unless if you are completely convinced that the alterations are necessary. Change the outline only if you feel that the person makes a valid point.

Give your outline some days and then go through it

It is also important to distance yourself from the outline for some days and then read through it again. While doing this, make sure that the outline highlights the chapters, scenes or acts of the autobiography properly. Ensure that it allows you to include the major names, dates and any data that enables you to tell your real story. Also make sure that the outline guides you in explaining or illustrating how certain events impacted on you. In case there are important details that you may have missed in the outline, include them at this point. If there are repeated details, unnecessary or awkward phrasing in the outline, edit them out. However, make sure that you do not eliminate important points while editing the outline.

Writing the autobiography

You have completed the outline. It is now time to write the book. Schedule a minimum of 15 minutes every day to write the autobiography. If you have a very tight schedule during weekdays, you can write your autobiography every weekend. Finally, you will have a great finished book that other people will read and remember you for.

An autobiography outline makes writing a great autobiography easy. It also enables you to present information and ideas in a smooth and logical manner. In addition, it enables you to maintain your focus throughout the process of writing the autobiography. As such, it is important to start the process of writing your autobiography by creating an outline. However, not everybody can write or has the time for writing an outline for an autobiography. This is why autobiography writing services exist.

It’s our hope that with the above guidelines, writing an autobiography will not be a problem to you.


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