Writing Tip #3: Have You Ever Read a Book You Wish You’d Written?

A number of years ago a friend of mine told me he wished he’d written Norman Zollinger’s Riders to Cibola, a saga about a ranching family in south central New Mexico in the 40s. He loved the characters so much that he envied Norm’s getting to spend so much time with them, much more than the time it took to read the book. My friend wasn’t interested in writing. He just wanted to live with the characters he’d come to love.
I started looking at why I loved certain stories, certain characters or settings. I think we all want a novel to transport us from the humdrum of ordinary life. Move us to another time that’s more exciting, more fulfilling, just more.
Figuring out what it is that moves you will also help you see where your heart lies. You’ll remember from Writing Tip #1 that you should write what you love. Now you’re going to figure out how to analyze what you love to read.
This begins with keeping a reading list/journal. When you read a book or story that speaks to you, make a note of it. The more detail you can include, the better you’ll capture the essence of what it was that made you feel that way. Was it the setting? Where and when was the story set? What details pulled you into the scene? Was it the characters? Which characters specifically? What qualities caught your attention and interest? Was it the interaction of the characters? Where were the areas of conflict? How did they work out their differences?
Keep track and then go back and review what you’ve written. Do you see a pattern? More entries that intrigued you with their characters? More with the plot? More the setting? You can use the details you’ve included from your entries to teach you about how to make your own stories grab your readers.

I’d love to hear from you what are your favorite books!  Just click on “Leave a Comment.”


About Penny

Penny Durant is the award-winning author of CHILD OF EL SALVADOR, narrative nonfiction set in the late 1980s in civil war-torn El Salvador and New Mexico. She has also published nine childrens books, and is a frequent workshop provider, novel writing teacher, editor, and critiquer. She has written two adult novels, "true life stories." Two of her pieces have been put to music by composer Michael Mauldin and performed in the region.
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3 Responses to Writing Tip #3: Have You Ever Read a Book You Wish You’d Written?

  1. Paula Paul says:

    I often read books I wish I’d written or that I say to myself “I wish I wrote that well.”
    Pat Conroy’s book The Prince of Tides is one of the books I loved and wished I could have written, if not that book exactly, one that came from my own life that is as powerful.

  2. Right now, I wish I had written the Fifty Shades trilogy. Man-oh-man, that island I’d like to buy in the Pacific would become a reality.

  3. Jean Jenkins says:

    I really loved Laura Hillenbrand’s book, Unbroken. She did a tremendous amount of research and skillfully wove background information into the narrative about Louie Zamperini. I wish I could learn to research and write as well as she does.

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