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How to Begin an Autobiography

In basic terms, if you want to know how to begin an autobiography, then just start writing. This is your life that you’re writing about. You can write anything you want. It really is that simple. If you’re looking for an intimate connection with your readers or you wish to convey a specific key point throughout your narrative, however, there are some steps that you can take to make your beginning transform from being great to being fantastic.

#1. Find Common Ground

People form relationships based on what they have in common. The first step of any autobiography is to begin establishing this relationship. To find common ground, you must have an idea of what type of person is going to be most likely to pick up your book to read it. These demographics have certain preferences, activities, thoughts, and feelings that are commonly experienced. Tap into those in the beginning of your story and you’ll hook readers effectively.

#2. Research Still Happens

An autobiography is still about you, but that doesn’t mean research doesn’t need to happen. Collect old photographs, newspaper clippings, and other documents and memoirs that help to tell the story of who you are. Figure out what the emotional truth to your story happens to be from your research. Talk to family and friends about the impressions you’ve made on them. This will become the core of your story.

Without research, an autobiography becomes an incoherent set of words that is ultimately uninteresting. Find your truth. Know it. Then lead with it.

#3. Talk About Change

Maybe your first girlfriend came to you one day and said that God needed her to breakup with you. Or maybe you’ve been through a tough divorce and are now happily married with your soulmate. People change over time and there are always a few big changes that become crossroads in our lives. Create a portrait of these changes at the beginning of your autobiography and you’ll be able to start building trust with your readers right away.

Why? Because they’ll relate their own big life changes to the ones you’ve experienced and begin to draw connections because of it.

#4. How Did You Grow Up?

Some people have model childhoods. Others live with parents who do drugs, get sent to prison, or live in a dysfunctional home. These things help to form who we are as people and offer us lessons to learn that we can use for tomorrow. Every story needs to start with a beginning. The beginning of your life, your childhood, is just as good a place to begin an autobiography than anything else may be.

#5. Establish Your Setting

Did you spend your whole life within a 40 mile radius of your childhood home? Or did you travel and see the world? How do you identify yourself when it comes to culture? Socioeconomic status? Do the labels you associate with yourself embarrass you? Or are you proud of them?

Knowing the setting for your story can help you begin an autobiography that makes sense. Use the beginning of your story to create a distinctive and memorable setting to begin your narrative. You may just wish to summarize them if there are several settings that will be included in your autobiography at the beginning so you don’t overwhelm the reader right away.

#6. Choose One Story or Theme

An entire life is important. Every life is important. For an autobiography, the goal is to limit the scope of a life story to a certain scope. There’s one lesson to learn. There’s one challenge to overcome. Sure – an autobiography by definition covers the entire scope of a life, but that doesn’t mean every memory and every experience needs to be included. Define the purpose of your autobiography by choosing one story or one theme at the beginning and then evolve the story from there.

#7. Write the Story First

If all else fails, write the rest of your autobiography first if you’re stuck on the beginning. A story often has a natural beginning, so if you create the rest of the narrative, you may be able to find the missing elements your beginning requires.

Autobiographies can be difficult to start because there’s just so much that you wish to say. By following these steps, you’ll be able to narrow your approach so that you can be detailed, honest, and focused on making the key points your narrative will need. This will allow the readers to connect and engage with your story so that the story of your life can continue to live on.

Melissa G Wilson

Melissa has been a leader in the book writing, publishing and marketing arena for the past two decades. To date, she has helped more than 100 thought leaders write, publish and market their books. Her clients include executives such as Dan Weinfurter a seven-time Inc 500 winner and Orlando Ashford, President of Holland Cruise Lines.

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