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Emulate Writing That Works

Book Revision Lab writer Renee Walsh discusses how her young students taught her how to emulate writing that works.

By Renee Walsh

December 22, 2022

Every day in my first-grade classroom, my students and I read stories together. We discuss the author’s message, describe the characters and the setting, and share our reactions. Then, we reread our favorite parts of the story. Sometimes once. Sometimes multiple times. I’m amazed at how many times the children will laugh out loud at the funny parts. Afterward, we take a closer look at what’s working, pinpointing what it is we like so much. When it’s time for my students to write their own stories, many mimic the elements they enjoyed in the stories we read.

As a writer, I can learn something from the kids here. Taking a look at what’s working in the books I enjoy goes a long way in the revision process.

For Example …

Recently in our Book Revision Lab, we were tasked with finding an opening we liked from a novel in the genre we are writing in, preferably a comparable title to our own books. We analyzed what made the opening strong and discussed ways to incorporate those craft elements into our own work. The opening I selected contained a lot of action from the very first lines. By getting the characters moving right away, the author pulled me right into the story. That inspired me to add more movement into the opening of my novel-in-progress, to pull in my readers, and I like the result.

Reading and Analyzing Comps

As I revise my young adult novel, I will continue to read and analyze other comparable books. When I encounter a unique voice, a plot that pulls me in right away, or a dialogue that rings true, I will take extra time to reread to figure out what specifically makes these elements so strong. As my students and Book Revision Lab has shown me, emulating what works is a great way to improve my writing.

Renee Walsh previously wrote for a lifestyle public relations house in New York City and currently teaches reading and writing workshops to elementary-