Your life story is too important to not pass-on. Whether preserving it for your children, grandchildren and great grandchildren or for a wider audience, an autobiography is one way to ensure your story is remembered.
Below are a few tips I’ve picked-up over the years as a video biographer that have helped me stay organized and moving forward when capturing my client’s stories. You may find a few helpful as you start the process of writing your autobiography.
~ Autobiography Writing Tips ~
I start every project by breaking the process into three stages: 1) Pre-Production or Planning, 2) Production or Content Gathering, and 3) Post-Production or Editing & Completion.
1. Pre-Production or Planning
- Know your Audience
Who you are writing your autobiography for? If you are writing for your grandchildren and great grandchildren, think about what you would want to know about your own grandparents and great grandparents. What stories, information, delivery style, tone and so on would resonate with you? If your audience will be professional peers or the general public, consider their perspective.
- Identify your Goals
What will your autobiography cover? Your life story from the early years to the present day or will you focus on a specific theme or thread? Will you include family history and life lessons? Make a list of your goals to refer back to during the editing process.
- Establish a Timeline
When do you want to present your autobiography or send it out to be published? Determine a completion date and then, working backwards, set monthly, weekly and daily writing goals. Share your progress with others if it helps you stay on track.
- Create an Outline
An outline will keep you organized and make the enormous task of editing, easier. Start by identifying general categories (childhood, young adulthood, career, etc.), and then add sub-categories and then sub-categories under those. Expect to add to the outline though-out the editing process.
2. Production/Content Gathering
- Write, Write, Write
It’s time to let your thoughts and stories flow. Be sure to keep a notepad or voice recorder handy since memories don’t always come to us when it’s convenient. Leave one on your nightstand, in your car, kitchen, etc. Most importantly, do not edit at this point.
- What to include
Concerned about what stories and information to include? Check out these two great articles: ‘The Stories That Bind Us’ by Bruce Feiler, NYT. and ‘The Power of Myth: The Benefits of Sharing Family Stories of Hard Times’ for guidance.
- Memory Triggers
Struggling to remember the details? Memories can often be recalled by stimulating your senses with reminders from your past. Do certain sounds or smells bring back memories the dinner table growing up? For tips on stimulating your senses to bring back memories, check out: Memory Loss: Family Stories and History – Tips to Help You Remember.
- Photos & Memorabilia
Visual elements add a sense of reality and dimension to your stories. Gather photos, documents, maps and other memorabilia that are relevant.
- Stay Organized!
As you write and gather materials for your autobiography, label and file content under the appropriate category listed in your outline. Cataloging now will help tremendously when it comes time to edit.
3. Post Production/Editing
As tempting as it is to include all your stories, your audience will find it overwhelming. Instead, identify the stories you feel are most important to pass on, support your listed goals and would resonate with your audience. Then rank them in order of importance, with ‘1’ being the most important and ‘4’ being the least. Soon, your content will become more manageable and a coherent storyline will start to emerge.
- Stick to your Timeline
Find a comfortable place to work and start editing and writing as determined by your timeline goals. You may find you need to step away from writing for a few days every other week to get a fresh perspective on your work.
- Staying Focused
Continually refer back to your goals, audience and outline as you write. I have also found it helpful to alternate between working on the details of a single story and pulling back to work on the larger structure.
Need a little help writing your autobiography? There are several options to consider: find a local or online writing class, work with a writing mentor or hire a professional biographer. Whichever you choose, know the time and energy you put into preserving your life story will be valued by those you share it with.
~ Video Biography ~
Here at Family Line Video, we preserve life stories, family history and memories in captivating Legacy Videos – Family Documentaries, Video Biographies, Anniversary Videos and Video Slideshows.
These modern-day memoirs weave filmed and edited interviews together with family photos, documents, maps and other memorabilia to bring stories to life for younger generations to know and cherish.
To learn more, visit us at FamilyLineVideo.com. Your life story, whether in a written autobiography or a Legacy Video, is a gift your family will truly treasure for generations to come.
Family Line Video, LLC
Family Documentary Production
~ Your Autobiography ~
Family Documentary ~ Video Biography ~ Video Memoir ~ Family History Video ~ Life Story Video