How to Write Your Own Autobiography - LifeTime

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<strong>LifeTime</strong>’s Guide <strong>to</strong> Writing<br />

<strong>Your</strong> <strong>Own</strong> Au<strong>to</strong>biography

“The Golden Rule is the principle of treating others as one<br />

would wish <strong>to</strong> be treated. It is a maxim that is found in<br />

many religions and cultures.”<br />

<strong>LifeTime</strong> lives by its own 3 Golden Rules:<br />

1. Interviewers entering an author’s home have had<br />

background and criminal record checks<br />

2. Cus<strong>to</strong>mers’ payments are monthly and interest-free over<br />

the 6 months of the <strong>LifeTime</strong> project<br />

3. Documents and pho<strong>to</strong>graphs are always scanned in the<br />

author’s home, never removed<br />

The experience of sharing your s<strong>to</strong>ries<br />

in an au<strong>to</strong>biography for the family.

A Guide <strong>to</strong> Writing <strong>Your</strong> <strong>Own</strong><br />

Au<strong>to</strong>biography in Ten Simple Steps<br />

1 Starting an au<strong>to</strong>biography; first memories and structure<br />

Sitting down <strong>to</strong> begin your au<strong>to</strong>biography can actually be the hardest part of<br />

the project. What should you talk about? Where do you start? <strong>How</strong> are your<br />

memories going <strong>to</strong> fit <strong>to</strong>gether? But most importantly, who are you writing<br />

it for: your grandchildren, family and friends, the public? This will frame<br />

the style you use and the s<strong>to</strong>ries you choose <strong>to</strong> include or exclude.<br />

A useful exercise is <strong>to</strong> cast your mind back <strong>to</strong> your very first memories.<br />

Nobody really knows why these become cemented in your mind, but they<br />

make for great reading!<br />

2 Plotting a timeline<br />

Unless you are a born writer, it’s difficult <strong>to</strong> coherently capture on paper the<br />

colour and essence of your s<strong>to</strong>ries, but certainly piecing <strong>to</strong>gether a rough<br />

timeline or a thematic guide that outlines your life s<strong>to</strong>ry is a useful exercise<br />

<strong>to</strong> shape the book. Think of this au<strong>to</strong>biography as a jigsaw puzzle of your<br />

life; once you have the edge pieces ready, it’s easier <strong>to</strong> fill in the rest and<br />

complete the full picture.<br />

Map out your s<strong>to</strong>ry by grouping these memories in<strong>to</strong> preliminary<br />

chapters. You don’t necessarily have <strong>to</strong> start with your first memory or when<br />

you were born, but you do want <strong>to</strong> ensure that the book does not read like<br />

an unstructured download of all your memories.<br />

Pick out your key points so that you can ‘hang’ memories on each one.<br />

For example, a typical timeline for an au<strong>to</strong>biography would read thus:<br />

• Ancestry<br />

• Childhood<br />

• Growing Up<br />

• Moving On<br />

• The Present<br />

3 <strong>Your</strong> family tree<br />

You have a completed timeline and the next logical step is <strong>to</strong> list all the<br />

characters who appear in your life s<strong>to</strong>ry. Drawing a family tree in the first<br />


instance can be very useful as it will make sure no one of importance is left<br />

out of your book! It can also help you recall associated s<strong>to</strong>ries. Think about<br />

friends, colleagues and any other important people who have influenced<br />

you along your life’s journey and make a note <strong>to</strong> remind you <strong>to</strong> include<br />

them in your book.<br />

4 One memory will lead <strong>to</strong> another<br />

Focus on your ‘highlights’, the s<strong>to</strong>ries you are most eager <strong>to</strong> preserve.<br />

These can be s<strong>to</strong>ries that have a deep and personal meaning; for example,<br />

challenges you overcame or funny anecdotes that made you smile, such as<br />

the time your aunt had one <strong>to</strong>o many sherries at Christmas. <strong>Write</strong> these<br />

s<strong>to</strong>ries under the relevant sections of the timeline and you will find that,<br />

by doing so, everything comes flooding back, with one memory leading <strong>to</strong><br />

another – and another.<br />

Always keep a pen and a pad <strong>to</strong> hand once the writing of your<br />

au<strong>to</strong>biography is underway, just in case you suddenly recall more details<br />

that you need <strong>to</strong> note down. This can happen at any moment, even in the<br />

middle of the night!<br />

5 <strong>Your</strong> s<strong>to</strong>ry in your voice<br />

Another key aspect of writing an au<strong>to</strong>biography is <strong>to</strong> consider the voice<br />

of the text. Remember that this is your s<strong>to</strong>ry, so you should be easily<br />

recognisable <strong>to</strong> the reader. You don’t need <strong>to</strong> use your usual speaking voice,<br />

but neither should you feel you must drastically alter the way you sound <strong>to</strong><br />

best represent your s<strong>to</strong>ries in the book. They will speak for themselves!<br />

There’s no right or wrong style or <strong>to</strong>ne; the book should reflect who<br />

you are. Do you have a very formal way of speaking? Perhaps you frequently<br />

use colloquialisms that would produce an informal voice for the book. If<br />

you are known for your sense of humour, for example, this will naturally<br />

show in the way you tell your s<strong>to</strong>ries; it isn’t necessary <strong>to</strong> artificially force a<br />

joke in<strong>to</strong> every third paragraph, thereby disrupting the narrative, simply <strong>to</strong><br />

prove you’re the s<strong>to</strong>ryteller!<br />

It’s important <strong>to</strong> capture a <strong>to</strong>ne that matches how people know you, as<br />

the risk when trying <strong>to</strong> adopt a different style is that it will seem as though<br />

someone else is telling your s<strong>to</strong>ries for you. In other words, your personal<br />

voice becomes lost.<br />

6 Include everything!<br />

Sometimes, we may think that certain details are not important or that our<br />

reader doesn’t need <strong>to</strong> know specific information; however, take care not <strong>to</strong><br />


omit anything that could be crucial <strong>to</strong> the reader’s understanding of your<br />

s<strong>to</strong>ry. Sometimes, the inconsequential details are the ones that leap from the<br />

page when the reader picks up the book. <strong>Your</strong> family and friends are the<br />

perfect audience for your s<strong>to</strong>ry and they will want <strong>to</strong> know all the ins and<br />

outs of it!<br />

7 Capture your experience of social his<strong>to</strong>ry<br />

Nobody has lived their life in the exact same way as you. <strong>Your</strong> au<strong>to</strong>biography<br />

is not only your s<strong>to</strong>ry, it is also your unique experience of social his<strong>to</strong>ry.<br />

Take your reader through the key his<strong>to</strong>rical events you have witnessed firsthand.<br />

If you lived through wartime Britain, you will have a personal insight<br />

in<strong>to</strong> that period that your grandchildren’s textbooks simply cannot provide.<br />

There are so many aspects of daily life during the war that are completely<br />

alien <strong>to</strong> later generations and your s<strong>to</strong>ry can capture the conditions,<br />

atmosphere and s<strong>to</strong>icism that prevailed within the country at the time.<br />

8 Edit your book<br />

Now that you have fleshed out your timeline in<strong>to</strong> a first draft of your<br />

au<strong>to</strong>biography, read it through <strong>to</strong> check you have captured all your s<strong>to</strong>ries in<br />

full and that there are no inconsistencies with your structure. A chronological<br />

structure should be related decade <strong>to</strong> decade, whilst a thematic structure<br />

should have the s<strong>to</strong>ries appropriately grouped <strong>to</strong>gether.<br />

Make any edits necessary <strong>to</strong> ensure the s<strong>to</strong>ry flows throughout. The<br />

sentences should link well, with one chapter passing seamlessly <strong>to</strong> the next.<br />

You must also ensure that you check any facts <strong>to</strong> make sure that the book<br />

is as accurate as possible. Editing is key, and it is important <strong>to</strong> eliminate<br />

duplication, otherwise the reader will switch off.<br />

Alternatively, it is good practice <strong>to</strong> enlist the help of an edi<strong>to</strong>r, as they<br />

will provide an objective view of your book <strong>to</strong> make sure the narrative flows,<br />

while also spotting any typographical errors or other mistakes that may have<br />

crept in<strong>to</strong> it.<br />

A prologue and an epilogue will effectively <strong>to</strong>p and tail your au<strong>to</strong>biography<br />

and, finally, please don’t pick My Life as your title; in fact, we ban it at<br />

<strong>LifeTime</strong>!<br />

9 Don’t forget your pho<strong>to</strong>graphs<br />

As the old adage goes, a picture speaks a thousand words. When it comes<br />

<strong>to</strong> pho<strong>to</strong>graphs that are buried in old family albums, there is no better way<br />

of preserving them other than scanning them digitally for inclusion within<br />

your au<strong>to</strong>biography. Pho<strong>to</strong>graphs can add real depth <strong>to</strong> an au<strong>to</strong>biography<br />


and, when coupled with relevant s<strong>to</strong>ries in the book, they can provide<br />

meaningful imagery for the reader.<br />

The last thing you want in your au<strong>to</strong>biography is low-quality pho<strong>to</strong>graphs,<br />

so images should always be scanned at high resolution <strong>to</strong> prevent them from<br />

appearing blurry or pixelated when printed. With the invention of websites<br />

such as Facebook and Instagram, billions of pho<strong>to</strong>graphs are now available<br />

on the internet, but there are two important issues <strong>to</strong> consider:<br />

1. Social media websites compress images and shrink them considerably,<br />

so that while they might look fine on a computer screen, they will<br />

either be tiny when printed, or appear pixelated when enlarged.<br />

2. Even if your au<strong>to</strong>biography is a private book, you will need permission<br />

<strong>to</strong> use certain images that belong <strong>to</strong> the pho<strong>to</strong>grapher or copyright<br />

holder. Using such images may incur a fee that will vary according <strong>to</strong><br />

the source.<br />

10 Ready <strong>to</strong> print<br />

Once the s<strong>to</strong>ry has been completed, you’re ready <strong>to</strong> print! Consider how<br />

you would like the book <strong>to</strong> be bound and how it will best represent your<br />

legacy. <strong>Your</strong> au<strong>to</strong>biography should be a treasured possession, not a series of<br />

loose-leaf or ring-bound papers. The s<strong>to</strong>ry of your life deserves <strong>to</strong> last and<br />

be the best book on your bookshelf, not a collection of stapled <strong>to</strong>gether<br />

sheets of A4.<br />

<strong>Your</strong> au<strong>to</strong>biography, as it now is, will need <strong>to</strong> be typeset by a trained<br />

professional, one who will set the text and the pho<strong>to</strong>graphs as they will<br />

appear in the book itself.<br />

Once the typesetting has been completed, the next step is <strong>to</strong> find a<br />

printer who can produce a high-quality, unbound manuscript for you <strong>to</strong><br />

take <strong>to</strong> a bookbinder. There are many bookbinders who can provide this<br />

specialised service, so find one who will produce the right type of book<br />

<strong>to</strong> suit your au<strong>to</strong>biography. Consider what sort of cover you would like<br />

and whether you would like <strong>to</strong> design a dust jacket <strong>to</strong> protect your book.<br />

Paperbacks provide a cheaper alternative, but the quality will never match<br />

that of a hardback edition.<br />

<strong>Your</strong> bookbinders will complete your project, providing you with your<br />

very own au<strong>to</strong>biography, ready <strong>to</strong> be passed on <strong>to</strong> the next generation!<br />

If you are au fait with using online publishing providers, this can be<br />

an alternative way of seeing your book in print. You do, however, need <strong>to</strong><br />

take great care when uploading and flowing the text, so that it doesn’t have<br />

an amateur appearance, and paying attention <strong>to</strong> how the pho<strong>to</strong>graphs are<br />

placed, cropped and captioned is essential.<br />


Not everyone is a born writer.<br />

If you are thinking of writing your life s<strong>to</strong>ry but not<br />

sure you can do it yourself, <strong>LifeTime</strong> has helped<br />

Authors all over the world write their Private<br />

Au<strong>to</strong>biographies.<br />

We are experts and handle everything from start <strong>to</strong><br />

print.<br />

Talk <strong>to</strong> us and we will explain how <strong>LifeTime</strong> can help.<br />

<strong>LifeTime</strong> Private Au<strong>to</strong>biography Service, Inc.<br />

13124 Monroe Place<br />

Crown Point<br />

IN 46307<br />

USA<br />

LifeBook Limited<br />

Hascombe Road<br />

Godalming<br />

Surrey<br />

GU8 4AB<br />

United Kingdom<br />

@lifetimeprivateau<strong>to</strong>biography<br />

@lifetimeau<strong>to</strong>bio<br />

info@lifebookuk.com<br />

+44 (0) 203 291 1169<br />

USA: +1 800 453 0199<br />


It is time <strong>to</strong> tell your s<strong>to</strong>ry<br />

@lifetimeprivateau<strong>to</strong>biography<br />

Copyright 2020 <strong>LifeTime</strong> Private Au<strong>to</strong>biography Service, Inc.<br />

All rights reserved.<br />

No part of this publication may be reproduced, s<strong>to</strong>red in a retrieval<br />

system, or transmitted in any form or by any means without the prior<br />

written permission of <strong>LifeTime</strong> Private Au<strong>to</strong>biography Service, Inc., nor<br />

be otherwise circulated in any form of binding or cover other than that in<br />

which it is published.<br />

Handmade in London.<br />

@lifetimeau<strong>to</strong>bio<br />

info@lifebookuk.com<br />

+44 (0) 203 291 1169<br />

USA: +1 800 453 0199<br />


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