How To Write An Autobiographical Fiction Novel

POSTED ON Oct 10, 2023

Sarah Rexford

Written by Sarah Rexford

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Learning how to write an autobiographical fiction novel may be one of the most creative tasks you take on this year. This genre stands out among both autobiographies as well as fiction due to combining elements of both. 

If you want to:

  • Share your story
  • Delve into creative writing at a fiction level
  • Communicate your message to two audiences 

…I encourage you to familiarize yourself with autobiographical fiction. This genre targets readers who love autobiographies and biographies, as well as committed fiction readers. In this article, I answer several key questions so you can start your novel with confidence. 

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What is autobiographical fiction? 

Autobiographical fiction is a type of writing based on factual events and real people, but also allows authors to take creative liberties. 

Writing this type of fiction allows authors to not only share their lived experiences but thread creative twists throughout the pages. If you ever wonder if autobiographical writing could be your next writing endeavor, you’re on an exciting journey.

Autobiographical fiction, also called autofiction, frees its writers from the responsibility of getting every detail right. Instead, authors can craft their stories exactly as they desire, mixing fictional elements into the facts. 

How is autofiction different from fiction? 

Autobiographical fiction is different from fiction because fiction draws ideas from reality. However, in this type of fiction, authors do not base their stories on reality. For example, Kristin Hannah’s, The Nightingale, places fictional characters into a fictional story world. 

While her novel hints that she spent quite a bit of time researching the time period her characters lived in, she dreamed up these characters, crafted their arcs, and creatively built the plot. 

Autobiographical fiction focuses on the lived experience of the author. The fictional aspect comes from changing the name of the protagonist and adding fictional details to a nonfiction story. The created protagonist simply acts as a stand-in or loose representation of the author. 

Through this made-up character, the author can weave fact and fiction together to create a compelling story. 

How is it different from a nonfiction autobiography? 

Autobiographical fiction differs from nonfiction autobiographies in regard to how the author uses fact and which creative liberties they take. 

When you choose to write fiction that is autobiographical, your creative liberties can include changes in fact from relationship tropes to your family history! 

Remember that just as there is no autobiography vs memoir competition, as each fulfills different needs, the same is true for autobiographical nonfiction and autobiographical fiction. 

While autobiographies that are nonfiction strictly adhere to fact, even keeping dialogue as close to accurate as possible, autobiographies that are fiction prioritize creativity over fact. 

What are some examples of autobiographical fiction books?

The Bell Jar, by Sylvia Plath, stands as a prime example of autobiographical fiction. She portrays Esther Greenwood’s insanity so genuinely that readers can empathize enough to rationalize it. Described as a haunting American classic, this novel invites readers into a dark yet rich story. 

At just 23, F. Scott Fitzgerald wrote his first novel, titled This Side of Paradise. Fitzgerald casts a Princeton student, Amory Blaine, as the protagonist, who he based on himself. 

His novel pushed him into the spotlight at its release in 1920. Today’s readers can study the authorized version of his famous work. 

Both of these works are great examples of writing goals to pursue. Rather than stick to either writing your autobiography or writing a novel, why not set yourself the goal of combining both and write an autobiographical fiction book?  

Can I write a fiction book based on my life? 

Yes, you can most definitely write a novel that you base on your own life experiences. This type of writing is a fantastic way to cover topics you may find difficult to write about. Depending on your background, you may relate to one of the following. 

First, if you overcame a specific struggle but don’t want to draw attention to yourself, you may wonder how to write about perseverance without making yourself the hero. Some writers prefer to stay behind the computer screen rather than launch a speaking career alongside their author career. Sharing your story through fiction may be a good choice for you.

Second, knowing how to write a book about war or another serious topic can feel overwhelming, particularly if you have first-hand experience. Sharing several aspects of your journey, but cushioning the stories with fictional spin-offs, can help you feel more comfortable doing so. 

Plus, autobiographical fiction is by nature, fiction. This allows the author to stay behind the scenes and promote their characters rather than themselves. 

What are the 8 steps in writing autobiographical fiction?

Equip yourself with these eight steps to write your first autobiographical fiction novel: 

  • Determine your idea
  • Define your key plot points
  • Conduct necessary research
  • Commit to completing your draft
  • Ask for another set of eyes to look at your draft 
  • Self-edit your work 
  • Read your manuscript as if you are a reader
  • Request beta readers and note their feedback 
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Read the brief summation below to equip yourself to write your novel. 

1. Determine your idea

Pinpoint exactly what idea or theme you want to communicate, and don’t worry if this takes some time. You may want to read the above examples of autobiographical fiction for inspiration. 

2. Define your key plot points

Even if you prefer to write the story as it comes to you, for this type of fiction, you may want to consider determining your beginning, middle, and end. 

3. Conduct necessary research

Historical fiction relies heavily on research. For autobiographies that are fiction, simply do the research that will most add to your story. 

4. Commit to completing your draft

Like any genre, it takes commitment to see your project through. It’s helpful to choose to finish before you choose to start. To streamline the process and craft a compelling narrative, consider utilizing a free autobiography template.

5. Ask for another set of eyes to look at your draft 

You may want to invest in a manuscript critique or simply ask a writing friend for feedback before you dive into edits. 

6. Self-edit your work 

Learning how to edit your work will save you time and financial investment once you reach the professional editing stage. Don’t miss this step. 

7. Read your manuscript as if you are a reader

It’s easy to mentally fill in gaps in your writing because you know your story frontward and backward. Do your best to read your novel or manuscript as if you are a reader opening to page one for the first time. This helps you spot areas you can improve on. 

8. Request beta readers and note their feedback 

Beta readers are a big help in catching errors, typos, and even plot inconsistencies. They add tremendous value and are important to your author career. 


Take your next step today 

To set you up for the most success, I included a free, 3 minute quiz to help you determine which writing software will most benefit you. Using the best software for your needs can make writing your novel a breeze. Take the free assessment today!

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