How to Write an Autobiography - Tips for Creating a Compelling Story

How to Write an Autobiography
31 March, 2020 in Writing Prompts

Tips on How to Write an Autobiography

Not sure how to write an autobiography? This article will discuss how to write an autobiography about yourself, in particular the most common autobiography structure. What is an autobiography? Simply put, it is a narrative story that you write about your own life. Before we discuss how to write an autobiography, let us discuss the different types of biographies.

Types of Biographies

Biographies come in three types:

Autobiography – This is a narrative that covers an individual’s life and is written by that person. The Autobiography of Mark Twain is a good autobiography example. 

Biography - The story of somebody’s life that is written by another author. Into the Wild by Jon Krakauer about the life of Christopher McCandless is a biography.

Memoir - This is a lot like an autobiography, but focuses on the individual’s earlier life. Dreams from My Father by Barack Obama is a memoir. 

Structuring an Autobiography

Writing an autobiography essay can be a challenge, but if you follow the advice in this article, it will not be as difficult. As with all essays, you will need an introduction, body paragraphs and a conclusion. Let us first look at how to start an autobiography about yourself.


If you want to know how to write an autobiography effectively, you should start with an introduction that hooks the reader. You might start with some comments about who you are today as a way to prepare the audience to learn more about the events in your life that shaped who you are. You might include an inspiring quote or a short anecdote about an experience that inspired you to write an autobiography about yourself. This will provide context and give the reader a reason to read your life’s story. 

Main Body

When you write an autobiography, the main body is where you share most of your story. While there are no universal requirements regarding how to write an autobiography, you should nonetheless keep it focused on key ideas while leaving out details that are not relevant. After all, the reader wants to know the interesting things about your life, not what is mundane. Each paragraph of your essay should contain a self-contained story about your life. You should use the first to discuss when and where you were born, and who your parents and siblings are. You can then proceed to highlight some of the childhood moments that made you who you are. As you move from one paragraph to the next, make sure to use logical transitions so that the reader understands you have finished one story and are leading them to the next. 


The conclusion of your autobiography should reflect on the moments you shared about your life with an eye on what you expect from your life in the future. Even if your autobiography includes moments that had negative consequences, you should optimistically discuss how you will use these experiences to grow as a person. You certainly do not want to end things on a downer.

Step-by-Step Writing Guide

Now it is time to go into more detail about what to include in an autobiography. Here are the steps to making your paper look its best:

  1. Think about Who the Audience Is
    No matter what kind of essay you are writing, it is important to think about who it is geared to and what its purpose is. For example, if your intended reader is the professor, you will want to write your autobiography with their stated directions in mind. For instance, if you were given a primer (i.e., write about your childhood and the lessons learned), make sure your story focused on that. On the other hand, if you are being asked to write an autobiographical essay for an admissions committee, your narrative should contain detail about the qualities that would make you the right fit for the college. You can do this by writing about a difficult situation that you had to overcome.
  2. Pick Interesting Stories
    As you think about writing your autobiography, the first step is to focus on the experiences that would be worth sharing. This can be done by brainstorming some ideas. Take a piece of paper and make a list of some important moments of your life. It could be an amazing vacation, running your first marathon, the first time you met your best friend, or even your first day of high school. Unless you have been asked to identify a moment related to a specific situation (i.e., a time you got into trouble), you are free to choose whatever you want, so make the most of this. After you have made the list, choose the one(s) that you think the reader would enjoy the most.
  3. Complete an Outline
    The outline is an important step that a lot of students neglect, but it is really necessary if you want the paper to remain focused rather than go off topic. It should contain an introduction, body and conclusion along with bullet points under each.
  4. Proofread and Edit After Writing
    You want your autobiography essay to look its best whether you want to get a good grade in class or get into your dream college. After you finish the paper, sit on it overnight and take a look the next day with fresh eyes. Aside from checking it for grammar and spelling mistakes, you also want to make sure it flows logically. 

3 Important Principles to Remember When Writing an Autobiography

The main point of your autobiography is to tell a story or a short series of narratives that allow the reader to know about your life. Here are three main ways to accomplish this:

  1. It should be logically structured - Never just jump around from story to story. There should always be a seamless transition. 
  2. Make it fun to read - Think about some unique experiences in your life that separate you from the rest. Do not be afraid to embellish a bit if necessary. 
  3. Make it easy to read - You should avoid using words or creating sentences that are overly complicated.

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What Autobiography Topics Are Best?

This article has given you a good start with writing your autobiography, but now let us discuss more about what strategies you should use when determining which topics you want to write about.

  • Keep it focused. What life experiences are interesting and worth sharing? If you are going to share a story about your vacation in Rome, the setting should only serve as the backdrop. In other words, do not start writing about how delicious the pasta was or how cool it was to visit the Colosseum. Instead, the narrative should be about your personal interactions and/or feelings. 
  • Do not provide every single detail about your experience. Given that you have limited space to write your essay (and your reader not have all day to read your autobiography) you want to make sure that everything you share is purposeful and helps drive your narrative. In other words, do not mention that it was raining unless this fact specifically impacted your life event. 
  • Not every experience has to be a positive one. Life is about moments both good and bad. There is no reason why your narrative has to only focus on something funny. You can certainly mention moments of disappointment. But just make sure you also describe how you dealt with them or even overcame the situation. After all, you do not want your autobiography to be a downer. 

Topic Ideas 

Your autobiography can either focus on a particular event in your life, a series of events that are connected to a common idea, or a stage of life (i.e., your teenage years) that makes for a compelling story.

  1. Stories connected to your earliest memories
  2. Your first day of Kindergarten
  3. Elementary school experiences
  4. Your teenage/high school years
  5. College life
  6. A vacation
  7. A tragedy
  8. An experience that changed your life for the better (or for the worst)
  9. How you met your girlfriend/wife
  10. Your first job as a teenager
  11. Funny moments with your family
  12. Your 16th birthday
  13. Your first weekend at college
  14. A unique talent
  15. Major (or even minor) accomplishments
  16. Your experiences on your high school sports teams
  17. A story about you and a family member (sibling, parents, grandparents, etc.)
  18. A passionate hobby
  19. Places you lived in
  20. Spiritual journey

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