Your life story is too important to simply let fade away. Whether preserving it for your children, grandchildren and great grandchildren, or for a wider audience, a written 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 keep me organized and moving forward with each project. Perhaps a few will prove helpful as you start the process of writing your own autobiography.
~ Autobiography Tips ~
When capturing a life story, I find it helpful to divide the process into three stages: 1) Pre-Production or Planning, 2) Production or Content Gathering, and 3) Post-Production or Editing & Polishing.
1. Pre-Production or Planning
- Know your Audience
Who is your audience? Is your autobiography for your grandchildren and future generations? If so, 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, instead, is the general public or your peers, consider their perspective.
- Identify your Goals
What will your autobiography cover? Will you be sharing your entire life story 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.
- Set a Timeline
Do you have an end date in mind for presenting your autobiography to your family or sending it to a publisher? If so, work backwards from that date and set monthly, weekly and daily writing goals.
- Create an Outline
An outline will keep you organized and make editing more manageable. Start by identifying general categories (childhood, young adulthood, career, etc.), then add sub-categories and then sub-categories under those. Expect to add to the outline through-out the editing process.
2. Production or 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 aren’t always recalled at convenient times. Leave one on your nightstand, in your car, kitchen, etc. Do not edit at this point. Wait until a bigger picture emerges.
- What to Include
Wondering what stories and information to include in your autobiography? 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
Memories can often be recalled by stimulating your senses. Do certain sounds or smells bring back memories of your mother in the kitchen or family dinners? 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 will add dimension and help your audience develop a stronger connection to your story. Gather any photos, documents, maps and other memorabilia that might enhance your stories and plan to sort through them during the editing process.
- 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 or Editing
As tempting as it is to include every life experience in your autobiography, your audience will find it overwhelming. Instead, identify the stories that support your goals and then rank each story by importance, from 1 to 4. Soon your content become more manageable and themes and patterns will start to emerge.
- Stick to your Timeline
Identify a comfortable place to work and start editing and then writing as determined by your timeline goals. Be prepared to step away every few days to keep from becoming overwhelmed.
- Staying Focused
Refer back to your outline, goals and audience perspective often. I find it helpful to alternate between working on the details of a specific story and the larger storyline.
- Outside Eyes
It’s never easy to have an outsider critique work you’ve poured your heart into but having a fresh pair of eyes can help identify weak spots. Ask a friend, family member or even a stranger their thoughts and what could be improved upon. While you may not agree, it may provide some valuable food for thought.
Need a little help with your autobiography? Consider taking a local or online writing class, working with a writing mentor or hiring a professional biographer. Whichever you choose, know the time and effort you put into preserving your life story will be valued by those you share it with.
~ Family Documentaries ~
Here at Family Line Video, we preserve life stories, family history and memories in captivating Family Documentaries – Video Biographies, Family History Videos and Video Slideshows.
These modern-day memoirs weave sensitively 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.
Capture your stories in a Family Documentary and give your children, grandchildren and great grandchildren a gift they will treasure for years to come.
Family Line Video, LLC
Life Story Video &
Family Documentary Production
~ Your Autobiography ~
Video Biographies ~ Video Memoirs ~ Family History Videos
Life Story Videos ~ Anniversary Videos ~ Video Tributes
Personal History Videos ~ Autobiography Videos