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Question
Please help me with some tips on writing an autobiography of my childhood for a school paper. I don't know where to start.

Answer
Hi Deborah---

Without knowing the parameters of your assignment, I'll pass along some general information and you can see what fits with the requirements of your project.

First, I'd create a timeline system you can use to keep track of things you remember or what to record. I'd recommend index cards with numbered tabs for each year of your life.

The easiest place to start recording is with locations---where you were born, where you lived and when.This will give you a context for other details that are important, and likely help you remember some things you've forgotten.

Now, record things that remember happening at each of those locations, as well as major milestones that define your life. (Births, deaths, divorces etc)

Next, think about those locations and milestones and record any major happenings that impacted you--- could be anything from a broken leg, to a best friends you had, a teacher you really connected with etc. This is where the color and depth starts to make the facts of your autobiography more interesting.

Now, to tie it all together, find out what was going on in history at the time. What major world events, national events, local events were going on during the different times in your life. Were you aware of them at the time? How did they make you feel?

Once you've collected all of this information, you can  begin writing using the information you've organized. By including facts as well interesting information about your world at the time and then overlaying it onto what was going on in the world, you should create something really engaging.

The only caution I would give you would be to avoid being to formulaic when you write it. Try rearranging the order you discuss each of those things in each time period you discuss and connecting them in different ways. If you do that, I think you'll be really pleased with the result.

If you have time, try reading parts of different autobiographies out there to get a feel for their tone. Most are conversational. You could even think about writing your life as though you are writing a "story". A great example of this is "I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings" by Maya Angelou. It reads like a fiction novel yet is her very compelling life story.

I hope all that helps in some way!  

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Gail Richards

Expertise

I can help you use your intellectual capital---you know---that NON-FICTION "book you've been meaning to write" out of your head and out into the world by answering questions about the publishing process and what your options are.

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I work with numerous authors as well as other book professionals in this arena. In addition, I create tools for authors to use as they work through the process. Detailed information is available on my website, http://www.authorsmart.com

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BA Dartmouth College, 1984

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