The Ultimate Guide to writing an Autobiography by Yourself

writean autobiography

What is your life story like? Everyone who has lived a life of abundance has exciting stories to tell the world. The trick with an autobiography is to treat it like a good story: there’s a main character (you), a main conflict to resolve, and a cast of intriguing characters to keep the audience engaged. Read on if you want to learn how to carve out your life story and write it down so it really rocks.

Determine the stations of your life

Work out what has happened in your life so far by writing a

The best place to start is by researching your own life. With a timeline of your life, you minimize the risk of leaving out important stations and dates in your life in your autobiography. Also, a timeline gives you good ground on which to build your life story. You can think of this part of the process as the “brainstorming phase,” so just write down everything you can remember—even if you don’t think this or that memory will eventually make it into the final version of your autobiography. Your autobiography doesn’t necessarily have to start when you were born. You may also want to include a chapter or two of your family history. Gather information about the history of your family and your ancestors, the life of your grandparents, your parents and so on. This is also valuable information for your future readers because it will help them better understand how you came to be the person you are. What all happened when you were a teenager? What led you to make the decision you made? did you go to university Were there intervening years or moments when you didn’t know in which direction your education would go? Write about those transitional years as well. Describe your professional career, your relationships, your children and all the events that have had a lasting impact on your life.

Determine the main characters.

Every good story has exciting main characters who drive the plot forward. Who has played a leading role in your life? Of course, your parents play a certain role, your partner and other family members. But also think of people who are not immediate family members who have influenced your life in one way or another and should be included in your autobiography. Teachers, coaches, mentors and bosses can have a profound impact on a person’s life. Consider including someone who was a role model (or a completely chilling example) in your autobiography. Ex-boyfriends or ex-girlfriends are always good for interesting (side) stories. Who were or are the enemies in your life? In an exciting story, there are always conflicts and opponents. Unusual characters like animals, famous people you never met, or even cities can be very interesting in an autobiography.

Write only the best stories.

Firstly, writing down your whole life is too long and secondly, you run the risk of boring your readers with the lengthy nature of the story. So you have to know which anecdotes you want to include in your autobiography – and which ones you prefer to leave out. Start by writing down the main strands of your story, which you can then weave together into a single story that will give the reader a picture of your life. There are a few themes that come up in most autobiographies because readers generally respond very well to them. For example: Your childhood. Whether you had a happy childhood or are totally traumatized by it, a few anecdotes from your childhood belong in an autobiography so that the reader can get a picture of how you grew up and what you experienced during the early years of your life. You can break down your childhood into shorter anecdotes that illustrate your personality. Describe your parents’ reaction when you brought that street dog home, tell the story of how you climbed out of your classroom window and ran away for three days, or introduce the reader to the homeless man who lived in the woods, his friend you have become… there are no limits to your imagination. your teenage years. This exciting and often very sensual time in a person’s life is of interest to most readers. Remember, this isn’t about telling something completely unique—we were all teenagers once. It’s about telling stories that your readership can relate to. your first love Of course, you can also tell the opposite of this – how you never found anyone to fall in love with. The Identity Crisis. Most of us have an identity crisis somewhere in our 30s or 40s, sometimes called a midlife crisis. The story of how you defeated evil. Whether you were struggling with an addiction, had a lover who was a total control freak, or a maniac was trying to wipe out your family, describe the conflicts you have faced in your life.

Write in your own words.

Most people read autobiographies to get a glimpse into another person’s life and to understand what it feels like to be that person. An authentic style of writing fascinates most readers. If you write overly formally and stiffly, or if your autobiography reads like a school essay, you’ll lose readers along the way and they’ll put your book down. Write your story as if you were telling a good friend, in clear and strong words. Be careful with words that sound stilted and that you would never use in everyday life. Let your personality shine through. Are you funny? Intensive? spiritual? dramatic? Don’t hold back, your story and writing style should reflect your personality.

Be frank.

You don’t have to tell every last detail, but it’s important that you develop and uncover certain truths and traits about yourself in your autobiography. Just listing your successes and triumphs and wiping the less than pleasant experiences under the rug is not a good idea. Open yourself up to the reader and introduce yourself as a whole person, with all your strengths and weaknesses. This way, your readers can identify with you and follow your story better. Don’t just show your best side. Even a main actor can have his quirks. Tell about mistakes you made and moments when you disappointed yourself or other people. Tell the reader your thoughts. Share your opinions and ideas, even those that may not be liked by everyone. Be true to yourself in your autobiography.

Get the zeitgeist across.

Were there any historical events that particularly shaped you and your story? Which wars have shaped your political opinion, which cultural occasions and currents have inspired you? If you not only tell about yourself but also what happened in the world during your lifetime, your story will be more meaningful and exciting for your readership.

Craft a narrative

Once you’ve decided on the content of your story and what you do and don’t want in your autobiography, it’s time to start thinking about the structure of your book. Like any other book, your autobiography needs an exciting and mind-blowing plot. Take the experiences you have and create an engaging story that builds to a climax and then resolves. Develop an arc of suspense by merging the memories and anecdotes of your life in such a way that they fit together and follow a common thread. What is your main conflict? What was the biggest obstacle in your life that you almost lost your teeth over and struggled with for years? Were you finally able to accept it? Perhaps you were confronted with a terrible illness at a young age, had a relationship that never let you settle down, or you constantly had to fight for your place in professional life? Maybe you worked your whole life towards a goal that you finally achieved? You can also look to your favorite books or movies for inspiration when looking for examples of conflict and its resolution. Build tension. Structure your narrative so that the different storylines all lead to a climax, preferably your main conflict. If your main conflict is competing in the Olympics, build the narrative around that goal, sharing the small wins and losses that brought you closer to your goal. Ideally, your readers will root for you and keep asking themselves: will she make it? Does he reach his goal? What do you think will happen next? A good story has at least one climax. You will get to the point in your story where your conflict will come to a head. The big day of competition has arrived, you have a fight with your worst enemy, you drown in your gambling addiction and you make a bad mistake – all these things are stuff for climax. Unravel your story at the end. Most autobiographies have happy endings because the person writing them is still alive — and hopefully getting their book published. Even if your autobiography ends on a rather sad note, it’s a good idea to leave the reader feeling satisfied. One way or another, you achieved your goals or you won the battle. Even if you lost, you accepted it and became wiser in the process.

Decide when to start with your story.

You can write your autobiography strictly chronologically, starting with your birth and ending with the present. However, it could possibly be more exciting to mix up the chronology a bit and structure the story according to other criteria. For example, you could keep reflecting on your current perspective and tell your story in flashbacks. You can also start your story with a particularly defining moment from your childhood, then go back in time and tell the story of your ancestors, then depict your college years, flowing smoothly into your professional life. In between, you can always tell anecdotes from your childhood to loosen things up a bit.

Try weaving in a big question or two.

Use your life’s big questions to weave the storylines together and connect your past to the present. What big questions have accompanied you in your life or have come up again and again – apart from the central conflict, which you will also describe. Are there certain holidays that you particularly like or that have always been special to you? Do you have a place that you are fascinated by and keep coming back to? Do you always fall in love with the same guys? Has spirituality played a big role in your life? Keep bringing these things up into the story to make it easier for the reader to form a cohesive picture of you.

Step back from your story and reflect.

You’re telling all the important events in your life right now, but what have you learned from them? Share your intentions, desires, fears of loss, joys, and the wisdom you gained with each experience. Always weave sections into your story where you stop and think about what you have experienced so far. This will give your autobiography depth and meaning.

Break your story into chapters to better structure the book.

Chapters are very useful when you want to tell different experiences or periods of your life. It is not for nothing that one says “I have closed this chapter” or “Starting a new chapter” when talking about certain events in one’s own life. This is all the more true for an autobiography. If you divide your story into chapters, you can suddenly skip 10 years, turn back the wheel of time or devote yourself to a new and perhaps central topic in your life without irritating your reader too much. You can decide whether you want to end your chapters at the most exciting moment, so that your readers absolutely have to continue reading. The beginning of a chapter is a particularly good place to get a bird’s-eye view of your past, to describe a particular environment, or to set the stage for a particularly poignant event that you want to tell next.

Revise your autobiography

Check all the facts again.

Check the dates, names, descriptions of events, and other things that appear in your book and make sure you have written everything as it happened. Even if you write about your own life, you should make sure that you don’t publish false information about it and only write about things that really happened. Of course, you can adjust your goals and intentions a bit, but definitely don’t invent conversations with other (real) people or altered versions of stories that really happened. Of course, you won’t be able to remember every little detail, but you should stay as close to the truth as possible. Get permission from the people featured in your story so that you can use their names and things they said or did in your narrative. There are people who don’t particularly appreciate being in other people’s autobiographies. You should respect that and change their names if necessary.

Revise your draft.

Once you have the first draft, revise it thoroughly. Rearrange paragraphs, sections or – where necessary – entire chapters. Replace banal or everyday words or phrases with ones that sound better and work on your sentence order to make your story more engaging and clear. Check spelling and grammar.

Show your autobiography to other people.

Present it to your reading circle or show it to a good friend so you can get an outside opinion on it. Stories you find hilariously funny may not go over well. If possible, get feedback from different people so you can get a better idea of ​​how your book will be received by others. If several people recommend that you skip a certain section, consider following their advice. Also, try to get feedback from someone who isn’t in your circle of friends and isn’t a member of your family. People who know you might show false consideration to avoid hurting your feelings. They could also be biased—especially if they’re in your narrative.

Hire a proofreader or editor.

A good editor can revise what you’ve written and polish lengthy or boring passages to a high gloss. Whether you’re planning to have your autobiography published now, or you’d rather try to self-publish it, it’s always a good idea to have the book professionally edited after you’ve finished writing it.

Think of a good title. It should represent the tone and style of your book, as well as be intriguing and catch the attention of potential readers. Short titles are easier to remember than longer ones; moreover, longer titles are not always easy to grasp. You could choose your name as the title and “My Autobiography” as the subtitle. But you can also opt for something less direct. Here is a list of famous autobiographies that perfectly tell the story: Bossypants. Do men have a sense of humor? by Tina Fey. My Confession of Leo Tolstoy. The Long Walk to Freedom by Nelson Mandela. The Sound of Laughter by Peter Kay

Publish your story

Even if you don’t want to bother getting your book out there, it can still feel good to have a beautifully designed and bound book in your hands that you can share with your family and other people involved in your story , can give. Find out what companies design, print, and mail books to your home, and figure out how many copies of the book you want to order. Most of these vendors make books that appear to have been published by a publisher. If you don’t want to pay to have your book published, you can still get a nice copy by having your manuscript printed and bound at a copy shop.

Consider hiring an agent.

If you want to publish your autobiography and share it with the world, a literary agent can help you with that. Search the Internet for names of providers and contact them, tell them about you and your book. You can also bring in initial ideas for how you want to market the book. It is best to start the letter with a description and the highlights of the book. Inform the agent what type of book it is and describe how it differs from other books. Tell the agent why you think he or she is the right person to pitch your book to publishers. If agents show interest, send them a few chapters to try out. Only sign a contract with an agent you trust. Read the contract carefully and find out about the agent before signing anything.

If you find it too long to look for an agent, you can also write to certain publishers directly and hope that someone will bite. Look for publishers that publish similar genres. Do not send your entire manuscript at once, but wait until a publisher shows interest and requests your manuscript. Many publishers do not accept spontaneous submissions or other requests. Make sure you only send inquiries to publishers who are open to such adventures. If a publisher chooses to work with you, you must sign a contract with them and set a timeline for when the book will be revised, designed, proofread, and published.

Consider publishing your book online.

This type of publication is becoming more and more famous. You also save a lot on printing and shipping costs. Find out which online publishers publish similar genres to your book, contact them and publish your book online.


Make your narrative interesting and lively, but don’t get too caught up in unimportant details. While you want your autobiography to make a lasting impression, you don’t want it to be boring. Filling in too many details – listing every person who shows up at a party or describing every single event of a day – can falter the story. Your biography may also include a dedication, foreword, statistics, chronologies, family tree, or epilogue. If you are writing a biography because you want to pass on your life story to your descendants, consider including other items in the book (such as pictures, heirlooms, medals, memorabilia, letters, etc.) and your narrative in the style of a want to designing a notebook. Of course, you can’t copy the heirlooms you want to include in your bio, so you need to think about how you’ll handle the original and copies, and what you’ll do with items like heirlooms or memorabilia. If you have a terrible writing style, or if you need someone to help organize your thoughts, consider hiring a contract writer. Famous people do it that way. There is also software that allows you to write your answers into a template. You can also type your autobiography directly into a computer, then you won’t have any problems with any illegible handwriting.


Be aware of when you are slandering someone. If you write in your autobiography that is defamatory or intentionally untrue about another person that you plan to publish later, consider changing their name (if the person is still alive). Otherwise you have to expect a lawsuit. If you’re not sure what you need to change, contact an attorney who specializes in that area.

Read our blog to learn about how to write an autobiography.


Daniel Carter

Daniel Carter is a senior writer and editor at Usevoucher. His work has been featured by The Associated Press, USA Today, the Chicago Tribune and Reuters. He holds a bachelor's degree in journalism from University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. When he’s not writing about money, Carter enjoys traveling around the world.