Biographies 101: Beginner’s Guide to Writing

Booktips – Biographies 101

Writing biographies might sound so difficult at first. Imagine all the hard work awaiting you: examining your subject, taking a brief look at the market to figure out potentially-interested readers, getting to know more about subjects’ lives which actually might take a million years unless you really know when to just stop.

We have compiled for you a simple walk-through guide for writing a biography without losing your mind. In this article, you will see the basic stages of the book starting with the idea till you let the pen flow.

1. Evaluate & Analyze the Subject

First and foremost, start with a brief examination of the subject you are potentially writing their biography. Ask yourself as many questions as possible to correctly decide whether this is an intriguing and likely-to-be-successful subject. We have a few guiding questions particularly useful in formulating an initial picture of the book:

  • What is so different and interesting about this subject?

Picking an interesting subject will definitely contribute to the success of your book. For example, writing about a typical person who has no strong cause and has taken no action to support that cause is not going to make your book stand out at all. It will be so boring and no one is likely to read it.

Alternatively, a good subject has to have a strong “why” or cause and a consequent “what”, aka massive action is taken accordingly. Otherwise, there will basically be no story to tell.

  • Are there other Biographies of their lives?

When it comes to the presence of other biographies on the market, it really is a lot more efficient effort in the coming phase: research. You will have already made outlines of their lives and you will be more insightful as to where to search for information on the important parts of subjects’ lives.

  • Who could the potential readers be?

Making sure you know who could possibly be interested in your work is crucial. You always need to put in more of what they like in your work; this way they will consider buying it.

2. Material Shaping for Biographies

Having finished the first phase, you now have a rough outline of the biography and a clearer picture of the subject’s life where you can pinpoint the highs and lows. You now need to start mapping them up against their life timeline. This gives you a simple directional map from start to end and will massively guide you in research.

You need to make sure of one thing though: “Less is more”! Never fall for the trap of making your book a chronological report of their lives rather than the most-valued story. Always highlight the important elements of their lives that make their story worth being in a bestselling book.

Make sure to control the space each element takes and determine the main focal points in the story. These points will be the peaks or troughs; the most prominent parts of the story.

3. Research Plan 

This phase is one of the most effort and money consuming ones. You need to have an accurate pre-planned research to reach the information you need. Everyone starts with the Internet of course, but in this case, it is mostly not enough. You need real sources: people that lived with them, art pieces from museums, previous books they have written, radio/tv/journal interviews, family descendants, colleagues…etc. The list is practically endless and it is only you who can decide it is enough.

Remember you can continue searching for a decade but you don’t have all the time in the world. The pre-planning makes it a lot more efficient and organized to reach information.

Always keep an activity log to track resources that have been checked, others to-be checked and so on.

4. Go All Out!

Now you are almost ready to write! All you need to do is: WRITE! Don’t fall for the million scrunched up papers to get the starting line of the story.

Sometimes, all you need to do is get started with writing rather than rewrite a hundred openers for the book. You may just flow and will later get improved ideas of what could be best to start the book with.

Our final advice for you is to find what you really need to focus on in this story; the highlight. Get to answer the three questions we mentioned at the beginning of this article in less than two sentences. If you could do that, then you pretty much have all of it clear in your head and just need to flow to get that bestselling biography on the market ASAP!

You can check this link for additional inspiration:

Take a look at these brilliant upcoming Biography books on Twitter!

Want more success tips as a writer? Check our article on how to maintain a supportive environment for your author’s career.

Share with us what your experience has been with writing biographies & comment with the name of your special piece in this category!






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