We all have our favorite books that are worn and dog-eared from reading over and over again and we have those books that we can’t even make it halfway through. Have you ever wondered why you didn’t like that particular story? In order to avoid making those mistakes, we must read books with a writer’s mind.
To read like a writer, we need to differentiate why we are drawn to a story and what turns us away. Here are some tips to keep in mind the next time you’re reading a book.
Keep a Journal
I find that it helps to makes notes to yourself on thoughts you’ve had during the day, or an idea that sparked while reading a story. Make observations to yourself on whether you liked or disliked a theme or element of the story you’re reading. Write about what you would do differently.
It helps for you to understand why you like a certain piece of writing, or why you don’t. Write those ideas down and you will be able to reference them at a later date.
Critique a Story
What do you like about the story? Is it fast paced with relevant details? Are the character so life-like that you have no problem following their story? What do you dislike?
Reread your favorite book and find out what elements draw you in. Mark or copy down any passages or descriptions that you really liked, then explain why you enjoyed them. The purpose of critiquing a story is to identify what techniques appealed to you and what turned you away.
Question everything! The author has included or excluded a pieces of information for a reason, rereading the story will help you to identify why that information was presented in that fashion. Making extensive remarks in your journal will help you understand which techniques you prefer.
Practice plotting by drawing out a diagram of books you’re reading. It will help you to see how the author pulled together their elements.
Lastly, don’t stop reading! Expanding your reading base will give you insight to improvements that you can make to your own writing. You may discover a brand new technique that will work perfectly with your style. If you’re stuck on your current novel, pick up a book. Something in the text may spark your imagination and start your creative juices flowing.