Writing Biography and Autobiography
I had written three book-length biographies, as well as a lot of shorter biographical articles, and decided that I should put all that hard-earned experience to good use and so I persuaded A&C Black to add this title to their “Writing Handbooks” series.
My underlying thought was that we are all interested in people and many of us have wanted to write a life-story , our own or another person’s, or have needed to do biographical research for one reason or other, but have been unsure how to set about it or how to bring such a project to a satisfactory end. My book is, I hope, a practical and helpful introduction to writing biography and autobiography and looks at the various forms that such a project might take. These can range from the full-length biography to a short article and, nowadays, need no involve print publication at all. Many people use a blog such as this, or a website, to tell their story.
However you do it biographical writing is fascinating – as I say in Chapter 1 of the book:
You will enter into the life of your subject in a very exciting way. While you will never know all about him or her (even if the subject is yourself!) you will develop an understanding and a rapport with your subject, even a long-dead subject, that can be very satisfying. You will become an expert – even if in a very limited and narrow subject – and this is always good for your self-esteem and your reputation. You will find fascinating connections between your subject and a host of other topics that would never have occurred to you before you became a biographer. You will certainly for ever after look at other biographies in quite a different light – analysing how the author has handled the sources, what these sources were, how they would have been used had you written it, how the story has been structured, and a dozen other points of technique.