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Creating Your Writing Style By Reading Memoirs

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One way to develop your own style while learning the craft of memoir is to do a lot of reading of memoirs. This works like a crash course in writing techniques.
You can imitate others in order to learn a skill. We do this as children, and we continue to do it as adults. Why not read others’ memoirs while you prepare to write your own? It’s the ideal first step in your preparations.
Read everything you can get your hands on that might fit into the genre. Read memoirs, autobiographies, biographies, profiles and so on. Read magazines, books, articles, just anything that might suit.
Don’t read these as you would read a novel you take to the beach. You may find many of the pieces enjoyable, but you should also find the reading instructive. You want to learn what you can repeat, or take inspiration from. You want to watch how the writers handle elements of their own writing, like conflict and action and character.
Pay attention to pacing as well. How does the author use suspense? What about turning points in the action? Conflict resolution, is it drawn out or abrupt? Does the story drag on or does it resolve so quickly it is unsatisfying?
Even elements such as point of view and description can be studied and learned. How does the author present settings, describe characters? Is there preachiness or is the tone appropriate for its topic?
Some common sticking places for stories should be observed particularly closely. How does the author handle difficult truths? What about the transitions between segments or anecdotes? How about the ending, how does the author bring all of the elements together to a satisfying finish?
Technical matters can be learned via imitation, but don’t stop there! When you find an author whose story or general subject matter is similar to yours, take notes. Are there effective elements to the story that you might use in your own work? Does this author’s work give you a new perspective on your own material?
Reading memoirs will be valuable preparation as you get ready to write your own. At least it will jog your memory. You’ll get a better idea of what sorts of things to include, and how to pace your own story. Your reader wants as much background and development as you can provide in your story.

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  • Posted On June 30, 2012
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