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How to Create an Outline for Your Autobiography

By: Angelique Caffrey - Updated: 6 Oct 2016 | comments*Discuss
 
How To Create An Outline For Your Autobiography

You’ve lived an interesting life so far. In fact, many people comment on how amazing your journey has been. As a consequence, you’ve seriously considered putting together you’re autobiography… but where should you begin?

Generally speaking, it can be very tough to just start writing without having any direction at all. That’s why putting together a basic outline before you begin your autobiographical adventure is a wise decision! An outline will keep you focused on the most important aspects of your book, enabling you to get to the heart of the main subject(s) faster.

What should your autobiography’s outline look like? While there isn’t one particular style, why not try the following simple steps?

1: Write Down the Top Five (at the most!) Elements of Your Autobiography

As you begin your outline, consider your eventual reader. What are the top five points you want him or her to understand after reading your autobiography? These could be literal (such as how you worked your way to incredible wealth) or symbolic (such as how you didn’t realize your mother’s ultimate sacrifice until you were an adult and found yourself in a position to make the same sacrifice for your family.)

If you have more than five elements, you may want to scale back. (Quite frankly, even five might be too many if they’ll only dilute the intensity of your book.) Having trouble paring them to a manageable size? Ask an honest family member, friend or editor to help you pinpoint which ones are most important.

2. Decide How You Want Your Autobiography to Flow

Now that you have your direction, you need to know how you’ll set up your autobiography. Will you be using flashbacks? Will you follow a linear timeline? Will you be throwing a variety of stories from different time periods and experiences into one large work to illustrate points?

This is a very important step in your outline process. After all, if you don’t know how you’re going to take your reader from beginning to end, how is the reader supposed to be able to follow you? Of course, if you discover at any point that you need to change your autobiography’s flow, that’s fine. But at least start out with a map.

3. Organize the Chapters of Your Autobiography

At this juncture, you’ll have a good sense of how you want your autobiography to be organized. Therefore, you can now begin to formulate the particulars in terms of the chapters (or sections, parts, acts, scenes, etc.) of your book.

For instance, if you’ve chosen to write your autobiography in a straightforward timeframe, your first chapter could be the circumstances of your birth. Then, the next chapter could be your toddler years, and so on.

(Don’t allow yourself to get too worried about doing this “perfectly”. There’s no penalty for changing your mind later!)

4. Have Someone Else Look at Your Outline

It’s time to have someone else take a quick peek at your outline and give you feedback. Choose a trusted individual(or hire a professional if you’d feel more comfortable.) Accept the feedback that you receive thoughtfully, knowing that you don’t have to make any alterations unless you’re convinced the other person has made a good point.

When you’re comfortable with the set-up of your outline, it’s time for the final step…

5. Start to Write Your Autobiography

Your basic outline is complete! Now, you must “fill in the blanks”. Give yourself at least 15-30 minutes to write every day (or each weekend, if weekdays are too crowded). Eventually, you’ll have put your story into a finished product that, perhaps, will one day be read by individuals around the world!

Good luck on your endeavours!

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