The autobiography genre and memoir genre differ in several subtle ways.

An autobiography is an account of a person’s life written by that person. It begins at birth and ends when the story reaches the present stage of the author’s life. Autobiographies deal with the life story of the writer, including various periods and events connected with his or her life. The autobiographical story is also supposed to be factual, requiring autobiography authors to double check information for accuracy.

A memoir, on the other hand, is a special kind of autobiography. It is a collection of memories that a person writes about a specific period or event that took place in her life. A memoir is also narrative nonfiction written in story form, like fiction, and has a particular theme or focus. The author details what happened and thereby gains insights from writing about it. For example, many memoir writers focus on challenging life-events, such as depression, abuse, foster care, drugs and alcoholism.

Autobiographies differ from memoirs by definition. An autobiography is a book an author writes about her entire life; a memoir focuses only on a part of her life story.

Autobiographies differ from memoirs by meaning. An autobiography means to describe one’s own life, while a memoir means to reminisce about part of one’s life.

Autobiographies differ from memoirs by the order of events. An autobiography presents the author’s story chronologically, while memoirs concentrate on a particular period or event of the author’s life.

Autobiographies are more factual, while memoirs are more emotional.

In summation, a true autobiography focuses on the chronology of the author’s entire life while true memoirs remember a specific aspect of the author’s life. Memoirs are more individualized in style and tone than autobiographies, with the memoir being more creative and less formal.

Need help writing, editing or publishing your autobiography or memoir?  Contact me for a FREE 30-minute phone consultation.

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