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 picked-up over the years as a Video Biographer that have helped me stay organized and moving forward when capturing a client’s life story. Perhaps a few will prove useful as you start work on writing your autobiography.
~ Autobiography Tips ~
Right from the start I approach the the process by dividing it into three stages: 1) Pre-Production or Planning, 2) Production or Content Gathering, and 3) Post-Production or Editing & Polishing.
- Know your Audience
Are you writing your autobiography for your children, grandchildren and future generations? If so, think about what you might want know about your own grandparents and great grandparents. What life stories, information, delivery style, tone and so on would resonate with you? If your audience is the general public or your peers, consider their perspective.
- Identify your Goals
What will your autobiography cover? Will you include your entire life story or focus on a specific theme or experience? Will you bring in family history and life lessons? Write your goals down so you can reference them 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 on 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 the task of 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 modify the outline throughout 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 surface in their own time. Leave one on your nightstand, in your car, kitchen, etc. Do not edit at this point. Just write and let the bigger picture emerge.
- 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. For tips on stimulating your senses to bring back lost memories, check out: Memory Loss: Family Stories and History – Tips to Help You Remember.
- Visual Elements
Visual elements can add dimension, reality and a more personal connection for your audience. Gather any photos, documents, maps and other memorabilia that might enhance your stories.
- Stay Organized!
As you gather content for your autobiography, label and file everything under the appropriate category listed in your outline. Organizing now will be a big help when it comes time to edit.
3. Post Production or Editing
As tempting as it is to include every life experience and thought in your autobiography, your audience will find it overwhelming. Instead, identify the stories that support your goals and then rank each by importance. Not only will your content become more manageable and but you will find themes and patterns starting to emerge.
- Stick to your Timeline
It’s time to find a comfortable place to work and start editing. While it’s important to stick to your timeline, be sure to schedule daily and even weekly breaks to help you keep perspective and from feeling 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 broader storyline.
- Outside Input
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 will provide some valuable food for thought.
Need a little help writing your autobiography? Consider taking a local or online class, working with a writing mentor or hiring a professional biographer. Or if writing has little appeal, consider a video memoir or recording your stories on audio tape and having them transcribed and bound in a book!
Here at Family Line Video, we capture life stories, family history and legacies in Family Documentaries – Legacy Videos, Family History Videos, Heirloom Videos and more.
These modern-day memoirs skillfully weave filmed and edited interviews together with family photos, documents, maps and other memorabilia to bring stories and history to life for younger generations to know.
To learn more about capturing your stories in a Family Documentary Video, visit FamilyLineVideo.com
Family Line Video, LLC
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