A growing number of Americans are writing autobiographies to put their life or family history in perspective for themselves and future generations. Unfortunately, many of these aspiring authors will not publish their stories. The reason their manuscripts remain unpublished is not for want of trying; it’s because they lack the know-how to navigate the process of autobiographical writing, editing and publishing.
For example, many new writers do not know how to start an autobiography. They’re unsure if it’s best to begin before or at birth, around midlife or later. The truth is you can start your life story anywhere in time, although most autobiographers write chronologically, starting around birth and moving steadily toward the conclusion. What matters most is choosing the right place to begin conveying your message, and that you grab the readers’ interest right off.
Aspiring authors should read several critically acclaimed autobiographies prior to writing their own life story. Well-written and captivating stories offer excellent examples to emulate.
I began my autobiography, Saving the Schizo Kid, William Gladden Foundation Press, 2013, in the voice of an emotionally-disturbed 15-year-old boy handcuffed in the backseat of a cop car on its way to a state psychiatric hospital. Using flashbacks, I spoke as a confused and frightened teenager wrestling to comprehend the causes and complications of my troubled youth. I concluded the book in the voice of Dr. Brown, self-analyzing how the traumatic experiences of childhood affected the rest of my life.
Writing an autobiographical memoir 30 years earlier, The Other Side of Delinquency, Rutgers University Press, 1983, taught me a valuable lesson about the publishing process. Rutgers hired a professional to edit my book. I learned first-hand how an expert book editor improves a new author’s work. Ever since, I’ve had my manuscripts thoroughly proofread and edited prior to publication. It’s the pivotal phase of the publishing process that separates successful authors from unpublished writers.
All aspiring authors should have their manuscripts professionally proofread and edited before submitting them to autobiography publishers. Nothing turns off literary agents and acquisitions editors more than poorly written, mistake-ridden manuscripts. The same is true for self-publishers whose substandard books prompt scathing reviews warning potential readers not to waste their money or time.
Critical reviews can cut to the bone. Publish a well-written and enthralling autobiography and the positive responses to your literary accomplishment will fill you with pride!
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