Notes From a Ghostwriter

An autobiography generally covers the author’s entire life to date and is presented as a factual, usually chronological account. Steve Martin’s Born Standing Up: A Comic’s Life, for example, takes us from Martin’s childhood and early jobs to the beginning of his career and professional success. In contrast, a memoir covers a distinct time in the author’s life, such as… Read more »

Woman reading outside

A family history has a broad scope and covers at least several generations. It explores the lives and interconnections of multiple relatives, as well as outsiders who were influential in the family members’ lives. As the author of the family history, you may not appear prominently: your primary role will be as historian rather than… Read more »

Duck dabbling

Are you headed for a family history, autobiography, or memoir? Because writing has an unnerving ability to silently turn east and leave you thinking you’re still heading north, having a destination in mind can be useful on the trip.

Book cover of Angela's Ashes

A memoir lets the author focus on specific aspects of her life and, by implication, ignore others. The memoir author should go beyond a mere telling of experiences to show the reader how they reflect broader human issues. Frank McCourt’s Angela’s Ashes, for example, which recounts the author’s life from early childhood through age 19,… Read more »