Will Your High School Writing Class Help You in Writing Memoirs?

For many people who sit down to write memoirs, the last time they had an important writing assignment was back in high school. So you may find yourself struggling to recapture lessons you learned in English class when you were just a teen. Even if you attended college and wrote papers for courses there, you may have trouble recalling the writing principles you learned that many years ago.

So let me refresh your memory. Typically, young students learn to write in a formula that requires each paragraph to start with a “topic sentence??? followed by three sentences that support that topic. The next step is to shape that topic sentence so that it doubles as a transition from your last paragraph’s topic to the new topic.

This construction is adequate for new writers, and the grammar you learned will serve you well. But to develop any sophistication in your writing, sooner or later you’ll have to abandon strict adherence to any formula. Once you do that and allow your instincts to guide you, you’ll discover your own writing style. Your paragraphs will be more varied and, therefore, more interesting to read. Your sentences will flow harmoniously, losing the staccato feel that characterizes formulaic writing. This assignment you’ve given yourself—writing your memoirs—comes from the heart of an adult who’s had a lifetime of experiences, so don’t fall back too much on what you learned in high school.