How to Write Your Author Biography


Harry: “Why don’t you tell me the story of your life.”
Sally: “The story of my life?”
Harry: “We’ve got eighteen hours to kill before we hit New York.”
Sally: “The story of my life isn’t even going to get us out of Chicago. I mean nothing’s happened to me yet. That’s why I’m going to New York.”
Harry: “So something can happen to you?”
Sally: “Yes.”
Harry: “Like what?”
Sally: “Like I’m going to journalism school to become a reporter.”
Harry: “So you can write about things that happen to other people.”
Sally: “That’s one way to look at it.”
When Harry Met Sally

It’s strange but the one thing writers seem to struggle with the most is the subject they know better than anyone else: themselves. Perhaps that’s because writing an author biography is about finding the balance between arrogance and unworthiness (something everybody struggles with, of course, but only writers have to put the results down on paper). Toot your own horn without at least a smidge of self-deprecation and potential readers may write you off as a narcissist. Fail to toot your own horn enough and potential readers may write you off as a nobody who doesn’t have the right to ask them for an hours’ long commitment.

Perhaps it’s also because an author biography tends to be something we dash off at the last minute instead of giving it the thought and attention it really deserves. You’ve spent months, possibly years, polishing a piece of writing and now that it’s being published, you need a few paragraphs that will be appended to the end of it to enlighten readers about the person it came from. But if you feel like “nothing’s happened” to you, then it can be tough no matter how long you spend on it.

There is no foolproof template for writing an author biography but here are a few things that might help get your creative juices flowing about your least favourite topic. Continue reading

Memoir versus Faction versus Fiction


When I enrolled in a master’s course at university to study writing at the postgraduate level in my late twenties, it came as something of a shock to me that almost all of my fellow students were retired or much older people interested in writing just one thing: their own story. Perhaps it was my relative youth and my correlating lack of life experience that meant I didn’t really understand why. After all, nothing much had happened to me at that point. (In fact, it’s over a decade later and nothing much has happened to me even now.)

But it wasn’t just that I’d stumbled across a rare collection of people focused on telling their own stories. These people, I’ve since discovered, are everywhere. And since there are just as many – probably a lot more – people wanting to read the real life stories of others, it makes sense that so many people pursue this avenue of writing.

But it’s not just as simple as putting it all out there. Writers who want to tell their own stories have plenty to consider. Continue reading

The Autobiography Decision: Who Do You Think You Are?


Recently a new discussion topic was posted on one of the writing and/or book related groups I am a member of on LinkedIn. The heading went something like this: “Let’s be honest. We all wish we could write our autobiography and people would read it.”

The person posting the topic explained he had been a trophy hunter and in a somewhat poetic reversal, he now cared for hundreds of animals after retiring young. Oh, and he had died three times (and been resuscitated three times presumably).

Now, I’m as self-involved as the next person (maybe a little less considering the emergence of the selfie generation) but I cannot stress emphatically enough how determined I am never to write an autobiography. Continue reading