image of a young student filling in a worksheet in class. The text overlay reads how to write a student memoir

6 Simple Steps to Follow

9 mins read

If you’re wondering how to write a student memoir (and how it’s different than a regular memoir), then you’re in the right place.

No matter what stage you’re at in your educational journey, writing a student memoir can be a therapeutic experience for you and eye-opening for your readers. Documenting your experiences, emotions, and growth is also an excellent practice so even if your draft never leaves your hard drive, it will still be a worthy exercise. 

What is a Student Memoir Anyway?

A student memoir is much like any other memoir. A memoir is a narrative told from the perspective of the author and focuses on a pivotal moment or time in their life.

Therefore, a student memoir is written by a student and recounts a pivotal moment or time in their academic career. 

A memoir differs from biographies and autobiographies in a few key ways.

  • A biography is written about a person from an outside perspective
  • An autobiography is more similar, where it is written by or from the perspective of the subject/author. However it spans their entire life rather than the narrow focus of a memoir

Readers for student memoirs are usually other students, or people who have been through school. They studied in different contexts for varying lengths of time and have at least some understanding of the experiences of being a student. 

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How to Write a Student Memoir

Similar to journal writing, a memoir is successful if readers feel like they’re experiencing life with you. Here are six simple guidelines to follow that will help you figure out how to write a student memoir that’s memorable and captivating. 

1. Find Your Topic

Consider your time as a student. Was there a moment or time that stands out to you? A pivotal moment where something happened or a decision was made and changed everything for better or for worse? Did this happen a long time ago or are you going through it right now? 

When selecting the focus of your student memoir, consider the relationships, obstacles, triumphs and other factors that are relevant to the event or time period. Think about the central themes, transformations, and lessons that came out of that time of your life. 

2. Give it Structure

Once you have a topic, it is time to determine how you are going to organize your thoughts to get your story and message across. Consider the arc of your story—how you get from point A to point B and how best to guide your audience on this journey. 

Chronological, past versus present, thematic and internal conflict are all common memoir structures. By outlining key events and turning points, you can determine which structure is best suited to effectively tell your story, keeping readers engaged from start to finish. 

3. Develop Your Voice

What makes memoirs so compelling, often, is the author’s voice that shines through. An epic story with twists and turns is one thing, but it is how you tell that story that sets it apart. When a story has a strong, authentic voice the reader feels like they are right there with you or are being told it by a trusted friend.

Experiment with different tones and writing styles until you find one that comes naturally and helps you get your stream of consciousness from the eyes and mind that experienced it onto the page. Stories written with exceptional tone and voice have the power to connect with readers on a personal level. If it comes naturally, infusing humor, wit, and emotion can help bring out your personality and voice. 

4. Write Authentically

One element that often goes hand in hand with voice is authenticity. When you are telling an authentic story, your voice will often come naturally. What is the point in writing a memoir if it’s not genuine? Then it just becomes a work of fiction. Get ready to be raw, honest and vulnerable as you lay it all out on the pages. 

Even if it’s difficult, it is essential that you are being real with your readers and sharing your honest thoughts and feelings from when you were a student. When writing any type of memoir it is important to accurately recount events to the best of your ability and avoid turning yourself into a hero or victim if that is not what happened. Maybe you’re the villain, and that’s OK! Remember, your readers are interested in the true story, you don’t need to make it up. Just be authentically you.

5. Reflect and Revise

Reflection is a very important component of writing, particularly with memoirs. You should be reflecting before, during and after the writing process. At the end of your writing journey, take the time to properly reflect on your work and make revisions to improve elements such as the flow, tone, accuracy and consistency of your student memoir. 

We often have a much harder time critiquing and finding flaws in our own work. That is where a fresh pair of eyes come in handy. If you don’t have an editor, seek feedback from a trusted friend, classmate or family member who can point out how you can improve your memoir to produce an even more compelling narrative. 

6. Share Your Finished Piece

You did it! You are finally ready to send a piece of you out into the world. Depending on what your goal for your student memoir is, you have many different options for how to share it. A few options to consider are publishing it on a personal blog or website, submitting it to a writing contest, a literary magazine or self-publishing. 

However you choose to tell your story, embrace the sense of accomplishment from finishing your own student memoir and sharing the events, genuine thoughts and feelings from a pivotal time in your academic career that led you to where you are today. 

Student memoirs speak to the inner child in all of us and have the unique power of bringing audiences back in time to their own school days while stepping into the author’s shoes. Celebrating the complexity of student life with all its highs and lows, a student memoir makes for an engaging story when told by the authentic voice of a vulnerable author.

Webinar.TWL

The Write Life has teamed up with Self-Publishing School to create this presentation, “Writing & Publishing Your Life Story.” In it, you’ll learn the 3 core elements of memorable memoirs. To sign up for this free training, click here.

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