Fiction — The Highest Autobiography

[found on; by COLSON WHITEHEAD]

“Write what you know. Bellow once said, “Fiction is the higher autobiography.” In other words, fiction is payback for those who have wronged you.

When people read my books “My Gym Teacher Was an Abusive Bully” and “She Called Them Brussels Sprouts: A Survivor’s Tale,” they’re often surprised when I tell them they contain an autobiographical element.

Therein lies the art, I say. How do you make that which is your everyday into the stuff of literature? Listen to your heart. Ask your heart, Is it true? And if it is, let it be. Once the lawyers sign off, you’re good to go.”

For more excellent tips on writing from Colson Whitehead, click here.

[found on]

How to Write an Autobiography

[found on]

“The first step in writing an autobiography is to decide who will be reading the book. A family keepsake requires a different level of writing skill than a book that will appeal to the general reading population.

Most often, successful autobiographies are written by famous or infamous people. There are some exceptions. If your life has been extraordinary in some aspect then you might consider writing a book marketed to the masses. For example, Children of the Storm: The Autobiography of Natasha Vins was written by a woman whose family lived in the Soviet Union and struggled for religious freedom. Her life story offers a window into a world that is interesting regardless of whose life story is being told. Also worth noting is that Vins also writes children’s books. This points to her drive and ability to write, both important qualities to possess when considering whether to take on the considerable task of creating a professional quality autobiographical book.

Being old is not a requirement to authoring an autobiography. Consider The Diary of a Young Girl by Anne Frank. The defining characteristic of a great autobiography is that the author’s experiences are interesting enough to form a compelling story.  Nonetheless, every life is a story worth telling. It can also be a very good first venture into the craft of writing. It is easiest to write what you know. A story about yourself would fit that bill to a tee.

But even for those people not looking to test their writing skills, there is merit to taking the time to write a first-person narrative of your experiences. It will offer your great-great-grandchildren a window into a world that will likely be interesting to them no matter how well it is written because it is their roots. Also, genetics play a significant role in our lifestyle choices. Should your offspring find themselves on a path similar to yours, it would be very meaningful for them to read about a relative who suffered similar bumps or had a knack for the same craft. It’s a gift that will last generations.

Step 1: Create an Outline
Step 2: Identify Moments
Step 3: Introduction
Step 4: Supporting Cast
Step 5: A 1,000 Words
Step 6: Details, Details
Step 7: The End
Step 8: A Neat Package”

[To read more about the steps, take a look at]