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How to Write an Autobiography

For many people writing fiction is not the preferred way, and the number of autobiographies around (not to mention biographies) is very revealing. A look at any best seller list will find a selection of autobiographies of celebrities (most written by ghost-writers - more of that in a minute) that sell in great numbers, a telling point in the current climate.

Of course, the fact remains that we like to read about the lives of those we admire, sports stars life stories and pop star biographies sell in great numbers as a result, but writing an autobiography is not something that we consider ourselves. However, there is a pressing question - why not?

A distinction needs to be made here before confusion sets in: a biography is a life story written about an individual by another, while an autobiography is one written by the subject itself. We have already mentioned ghost writers; these are people that offer their services to people who wish to write their own autobiography but who are not writers. The ghost then writes the book for them, takes a fee and the book is published with the subject as the author.

Writing your own autobiography, however, may be a more interesting prospect than you think. If you have a story to tell, or if you have had a particularly interesting life, then why shouldn't people want to read about it?

The process is not one that takes a few moments, for it involves research and memory; to start you need to decide on the part of your life that you wish to cover primarily. It could be an illness you have suffered, an achievement, or simply something that you went through that you want to write about it. You need to lead up to this with a brief outline of your prior life, and then embark on telling the tale you wish to tell.

If, however, you wish to tell the story of someone else then there are several ways to go about it: if the subject is deceased the research could come through archives and libraries - or family members if the subject is a relative - and if still alive then the possibility of interviews with the subject, and access to their archives, is there.

Planning is all important in either genre of writing; you need to have a clear introduction, defined ages and eras, and a path that follows sensibly through the life of the subject. It will be a bit like planning out the plot of a novel, but using real facts instead of invented fantasy.

Either way, writing about people is interesting and rewarding, and if you have the patience and application, why not try by writing a brief biography of a family member as an exercise?

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