Writing a Chapter Book? Try This Exercise First!

Post 1: “Writing” Like an Author

*This is the first in a short series of posts about reading in your genre and level to become a better writer. In this first post, I’ll be talking about an exercise that gives you a different writer’s perspective. Enjoy!

I’m on a reading journey! I’ve decided to read about 100 chapter books more closely as I go back and revise my own (very) rough draft. So far I’ve done a focused read on about 21. But in the middle of this I tried a neat exercise that gave me a different writer perspective, and I wanted to share it with you.

This activity is helpful no matter the book level or genre in which you’re writing. For me, I think it’s a great precursor to actually starting a book, so if you’re new and haven’t already begun, give this a try! As I mentioned, though, I have started mine and I still went back and tried it! It definitely gave me a fresher point of view. Maybe it will for you, too.  

A Fun Way to Begin 

For me, studying books from established authors is like taking lessons from proficient, silent teachers. The more I read, the deeper I dive into the story’s well-crafted elements like opening lines, characters, or dialogue, among others. I’m beginning to read with a different lens.

In short, I’m reading like a writer. But what does that mean, exactly?

According to children’s book author Alice Kuipers, one great way to get the sense of all the book elements working together is to choose a book you’ve read and type out the first two, (maybe three) pages on the computer. By doing this, you’ll get a feel for the sentence lengthvoice, setting and the way plot is used to carry the story arc.

Alice says using this technique allows you to see the book differently and that, “…Writing what you’ve read gives you an editorial eye and a real feel for how to make a text come alive.”

So I tried it with this book:

The Zack Files Evil Queen Tut and the Great Ant Pyramids by Dan Greenburg /#16

Here’s what my “editorial eye” picked up:

  • I was typing succinct language–nothing extra–just what was needed. 
  • I knew a little about the M.C. already–what and who he didn’t like. 
  • I knew he’d gone on a strange journey and that made me want to keep reading.
  • I liked right away the 2nd person viewpoint–felt personal and I wanted to know this character more.
  • I liked his voice. It was conversational and friendly.
  • I learned essentials about his background and the setting (so far).
  • I also probably learned who his sidekick or secondary character was and the possible antagonist.

My notes might be short, but I wanted to give you a sense of what stood out to me and what I liked. Depending on the type of book, though, these notes would certainly look different. And taking notes right on the paper is a handy reference I can use as I’m writing my book. 

I really enjoyed this exercise! I’d try it again for sure. 

In case you need some titles for this exercise, here’s a short list. If you have others, let me know!

Older Chapter Books-(7-10 yrs):

Mercy Watson by Kate DiCamillo

The Kingdom of Wrenly by Jordan Quinn 

Younger Chapter Books (6-9 yrs):

Eerie Elementary by Jack Chabert

The Polly Diamond series by Alice Kuipers

Over to you! Did you try this strategy of writing out a couple of pages? What did you like, notice or feel? I’d love to hear your thoughts!

Writing with you,


Next Up (on 9/12)–Post 2: Reading and studying same genre books 



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