How to Write Your Own Autobiography - LifeTime

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LifeTime’s Guide to Writing

Your Own Autobiography

“The Golden Rule is the principle of treating others as one

would wish to be treated. It is a maxim that is found in

many religions and cultures.”

LifeTime lives by its own 3 Golden Rules:

1. Interviewers entering an author’s home have had

background and criminal record checks

2. Customers’ payments are monthly and interest-free over

the 6 months of the LifeTime project

3. Documents and photographs are always scanned in the

author’s home, never removed

The experience of sharing your stories

in an autobiography for the family.

A Guide to Writing Your Own

Autobiography in Ten Simple Steps

1 Starting an autobiography; first memories and structure

Sitting down to begin your autobiography can actually be the hardest part of

the project. What should you talk about? Where do you start? How are your

memories going to fit together? But most importantly, who are you writing

it for: your grandchildren, family and friends, the public? This will frame

the style you use and the stories you choose to include or exclude.

A useful exercise is to cast your mind back to your very first memories.

Nobody really knows why these become cemented in your mind, but they

make for great reading!

2 Plotting a timeline

Unless you are a born writer, it’s difficult to coherently capture on paper the

colour and essence of your stories, but certainly piecing together a rough

timeline or a thematic guide that outlines your life story is a useful exercise

to shape the book. Think of this autobiography as a jigsaw puzzle of your

life; once you have the edge pieces ready, it’s easier to fill in the rest and

complete the full picture.

Map out your story by grouping these memories into preliminary

chapters. You don’t necessarily have to start with your first memory or when

you were born, but you do want to ensure that the book does not read like

an unstructured download of all your memories.

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

For example, a typical timeline for an autobiography would read thus:

• Ancestry

• Childhood

• Growing Up

• Moving On

• The Present

3 Your family tree

You have a completed timeline and the next logical step is to list all the

characters who appear in your life story. Drawing a family tree in the first


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

out of your book! It can also help you recall associated stories. Think about

friends, colleagues and any other important people who have influenced

you along your life’s journey and make a note to remind you to include

them in your book.

4 One memory will lead to another

Focus on your ‘highlights’, the stories you are most eager to preserve.

These can be stories that have a deep and personal meaning; for example,

challenges you overcame or funny anecdotes that made you smile, such as

the time your aunt had one too many sherries at Christmas. Write these

stories under the relevant sections of the timeline and you will find that,

by doing so, everything comes flooding back, with one memory leading to

another – and another.

Always keep a pen and a pad to hand once the writing of your

autobiography is underway, just in case you suddenly recall more details

that you need to note down. This can happen at any moment, even in the

middle of the night!

5 Your story in your voice

Another key aspect of writing an autobiography is to consider the voice

of the text. Remember that this is your story, so you should be easily

recognisable to the reader. You don’t need to use your usual speaking voice,

but neither should you feel you must drastically alter the way you sound to

best represent your stories in the book. They will speak for themselves!

There’s no right or wrong style or tone; the book should reflect who

you are. Do you have a very formal way of speaking? Perhaps you frequently

use colloquialisms that would produce an informal voice for the book. If

you are known for your sense of humour, for example, this will naturally

show in the way you tell your stories; it isn’t necessary to artificially force a

joke into every third paragraph, thereby disrupting the narrative, simply to

prove you’re the storyteller!

It’s important to capture a tone that matches how people know you, as

the risk when trying to adopt a different style is that it will seem as though

someone else is telling your stories for you. In other words, your personal

voice becomes lost.

6 Include everything!

Sometimes, we may think that certain details are not important or that our

reader doesn’t need to know specific information; however, take care not to


omit anything that could be crucial to the reader’s understanding of your

story. Sometimes, the inconsequential details are the ones that leap from the

page when the reader picks up the book. Your family and friends are the

perfect audience for your story and they will want to know all the ins and

outs of it!

7 Capture your experience of social history

Nobody has lived their life in the exact same way as you. Your autobiography

is not only your story, it is also your unique experience of social history.

Take your reader through the key historical events you have witnessed firsthand.

If you lived through wartime Britain, you will have a personal insight

into that period that your grandchildren’s textbooks simply cannot provide.

There are so many aspects of daily life during the war that are completely

alien to later generations and your story can capture the conditions,

atmosphere and stoicism that prevailed within the country at the time.

8 Edit your book

Now that you have fleshed out your timeline into a first draft of your

autobiography, read it through to check you have captured all your stories in

full and that there are no inconsistencies with your structure. A chronological

structure should be related decade to decade, whilst a thematic structure

should have the stories appropriately grouped together.

Make any edits necessary to ensure the story flows throughout. The

sentences should link well, with one chapter passing seamlessly to the next.

You must also ensure that you check any facts to make sure that the book

is as accurate as possible. Editing is key, and it is important to eliminate

duplication, otherwise the reader will switch off.

Alternatively, it is good practice to enlist the help of an editor, as they

will provide an objective view of your book to make sure the narrative flows,

while also spotting any typographical errors or other mistakes that may have

crept into it.

A prologue and an epilogue will effectively top and tail your autobiography

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


9 Don’t forget your photographs

As the old adage goes, a picture speaks a thousand words. When it comes

to photographs that are buried in old family albums, there is no better way

of preserving them other than scanning them digitally for inclusion within

your autobiography. Photographs can add real depth to an autobiography


and, when coupled with relevant stories in the book, they can provide

meaningful imagery for the reader.

The last thing you want in your autobiography is low-quality photographs,

so images should always be scanned at high resolution to prevent them from

appearing blurry or pixelated when printed. With the invention of websites

such as Facebook and Instagram, billions of photographs are now available

on the internet, but there are two important issues to consider:

1. Social media websites compress images and shrink them considerably,

so that while they might look fine on a computer screen, they will

either be tiny when printed, or appear pixelated when enlarged.

2. Even if your autobiography is a private book, you will need permission

to use certain images that belong to the photographer or copyright

holder. Using such images may incur a fee that will vary according to

the source.

10 Ready to print

Once the story has been completed, you’re ready to print! Consider how

you would like the book to be bound and how it will best represent your

legacy. Your autobiography should be a treasured possession, not a series of

loose-leaf or ring-bound papers. The story of your life deserves to last and

be the best book on your bookshelf, not a collection of stapled together

sheets of A4.

Your autobiography, as it now is, will need to be typeset by a trained

professional, one who will set the text and the photographs as they will

appear in the book itself.

Once the typesetting has been completed, the next step is to find a

printer who can produce a high-quality, unbound manuscript for you to

take to a bookbinder. There are many bookbinders who can provide this

specialised service, so find one who will produce the right type of book

to suit your autobiography. Consider what sort of cover you would like

and whether you would like to design a dust jacket to protect your book.

Paperbacks provide a cheaper alternative, but the quality will never match

that of a hardback edition.

Your bookbinders will complete your project, providing you with your

very own autobiography, ready to be passed on to the next generation!

If you are au fait with using online publishing providers, this can be

an alternative way of seeing your book in print. You do, however, need to

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

an amateur appearance, and paying attention to how the photographs are

placed, cropped and captioned is essential.


Not everyone is a born writer.

If you are thinking of writing your life story but not

sure you can do it yourself, LifeTime has helped

Authors all over the world write their Private


We are experts and handle everything from start to


Talk to us and we will explain how LifeTime can help.

LifeTime Private Autobiography Service, Inc.

13124 Monroe Place

Crown Point

IN 46307


LifeBook Limited

Hascombe Road




United Kingdom



+44 (0) 203 291 1169

USA: +1 800 453 0199

It is time to tell your story


Copyright 2020 LifeTime Private Autobiography Service, Inc.

All rights reserved.

No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval

system, or transmitted in any form or by any means without the prior

written permission of LifeTime Private Autobiography Service, Inc., nor

be otherwise circulated in any form of binding or cover other than that in

which it is published.

Handmade in London.


+44 (0) 203 291 1169

USA: +1 800 453 0199

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