Writing is learned by imitation. If anyone asked me how I learned to write, I’d say I learned by reading the men and women who were doing the kind of writing I wanted to do and trying to figure out how they did it. --William Zinsser
Stephen King has offered the same advice provided above by Zinsser. I’ve echoed both men several times in the blog. It is advice that bears repeating.
Want to write a memoir? Then read memoirs, including some of those listed below:
- About Alice by Calvin Trillin
- All Creatures Great and Small by James Herriot
- Angela’s Ashes by Frank McCourt
- The Autobiography of Mark Twain by Mark Twain
- The Diary of a Young Girl by Anne Frank
- Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert
- Gift from the Sea by Anne Morrow Lindbergh
- The Life and Times of the Thunderbolt Kid by Bill Bryson
- A Long Way Gone by Ishmael Bael
- Marley and Me by John Grogan
- Me Talk Pretty One Day by David Sedaris
- Never Have Your Dog Stuffed and Other Things I’ve Learned By Alan Alda
- Night by Elie Wiesel
- On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft by Stephen King
- Tuesdays with Morrie by Mitch Albom
- Walden by Henry David Thoreau
- Wild by Cheryl Strayed
- The Year of Magical Thinking by Joan Didion
Each of the titles above will give you fresh ideas about organization. Chronology is not the only or even the best way to tell your story.
Each of the titles above will also give you an array of diction, syntax, and image choices. Select a passage and imitate it word for word with your own message.
Want to write a novel? Then read novels, including some of those listed below:
- Beloved by Toni Morrison
- Dolores Claiborne by Stephen King
- Life after Life by Kate Atkinson
- No Country for Old Men by Cormac McCarthy
- The Elegance of the Hedgehog by Muriel Barbery
- The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck
- The Things They Carried by Tim O’Brien
- The Yellow Birds by Kevin Powers
- To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
- Watership Down by Richard Adams
- We Are Not Ourselves by Matthew Thomas
Each of the titles above represents a very different structure and style. Read to absorb all the possibilities for both.
Read one from the list of memoirs and one from the list of novels.
Begin the book you’ve always dreamed about writing.
Connye Griffin is My Writing and Editing Coach.