A new writer often likes to start here – and why not? Writing an autobiography is comfortable, after all, you know who you are writing about. The problem is not writing, the danger is writing Too Much! We know you were born at an early age and we couldn’t care less what your great grandparents did – unless it is pertinent to your own story. Were they pioneers? Immigrants, Slaves, Monarchy? The thing to hold at the forefront of your mind as you write your biography is: WHO IS YOUR AUDIENCE? If you are writing purely for yourself (like a diary) then okay, write in what you ate for breakfast if it is important for you. If you are writing for your grandchildren, the only time that they are interested in your breakfast fare is if you decided to try freshly baked frogs that you caught croaking in the garden last night.
Data: Dates. Usually dates are unimportant unless they are important. Yes – true! You can fall in love in the summer of 66, but if you are being shipped overseas with the 7th battalion to fight in a war at a particular location – then you”d better get the date right or the critics will come howling.
Chatting is always better than reporting. Never proceed in a northerly direction. Basically, if you wouldn’t use a phrase in a conversation, then don’t use it in your writing. So how can you do that?
The best way to get your anecdote out is remember how you told it at a party: “So I was walking along High Street and I’d only got as far as the King’s head on the corner, when…” And now we are interested. You have our attention. That’s what the best bits of life are. The bits we want to remember and pass on, are the anecdotes. The little stories of ‘What Happened When I…’