LEARING TO WRITE BY READING


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What could be more fun than loving a book you’re reading and at the same time learning to write a book of your own?

Take a book you’re already enjoying and start reading it again, trying these steps for a quick start:

  • Jot down a line or two about how the novel opens. When you come to the end of the first scene, stop and imagine what could happen next. Write down everything you can think up. Do this with other places that make you want to find out what happens next.
  • List what happens in the beginning and ending of each chapter, if they grab you. If they don’t interest you that much, pay attention to why not and vow to do better yourself.  Especially note cliffhangers and really exciting chapter openings. (Special non-happenings to watch for—openings with a character getting up in the morning alone and thinking; closings with the character thinking and getting into bed alone.)
  • When you’ve finished reading the book, make notes about what you liked about it and what you didn’t. (You can do this as you go along, as well.)
  • Use your notes to outline your next book. Not the actual happenings, but when they happened: In the book you read, on page one, what happened? When did the inciting incident occur? Was it in the first chapter or later? How does the second chapter open? Put down the most interesting things that happen and on what page. Now see if you can pencil in plot points for your own book around the same page numbers.

Using this method, I think you will quickly learn what works and doesn’t work when writing a novel, maybe even a non-fiction book. The most important goal of any writer is to keep the reader interested in reading all the way to the end and to have such a great ending that the reader will want to read more of the writer’s work.

The only trouble with this method is that it probably will take some of the enjoyment out of reading that particular book, and it will tend to get you paying attention to the inner workings of future books you read. I make up for that with my own writing which I mostly tend to enjoy doing. I wish the same for you. I suggest trying this with blockbuster bestselling books, such as those by James Patterson or Mary Higgins Clark. Please let me know if you try this and how you felt about it when you finished. I’d love to hear from you.


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