Improve Your Writing Style Through Varied Reading

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.

Don’t be overly restrictive about your reading choices. Read a bunch of memoirs but don’t stop there. You should also be reading autobiographies, biographies, even magazine pieces.

The reading you do as a writer is different than the reading you do for pleasure. As a writer, you want to be studying how the other authors put their stories together. How did they handle character, action, conflict? How did they structure story?

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?

Every writer has techniques he or she uses Đ watch how the authors you are reading handle description of actions, characters, and settings. Pay attention to the use of point of view. Watch tone, and see whether it fits with the story being told. Does the author avoid being preachy? If so, how?

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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