Monday, December 9, 2013

Active Reading Part II

One of many reasons for aspiring authors to continue reading novels: To see how they did it

Reading other published works gives you examples of how to (or how not to) write your genre. If you love reading mysteries, and you decide to write mysteries, continue reading them.

But from now on, pay attention to how the authors drop hints and clues, how they lead the reader to the end with foreboding. Have you ever finished a book and said “I knew that was the bad guy.” Did you ask yourself how you knew it was the bad guy? The author dropped hints, of course. Go find those hints, mark them with a pencil or something, and emulate them until it becomes second nature. If you pinpoint what authors are doing right often enough, doing it right yourself will become more of a habit than a conscious thing.

Writing romance? You realize a romance is really dull without constant tension between the two principle characters, but how do authors weave that conflict and romance into one cohesive piece? That’s what you should pay attention to while reading. You read your genre to learn how to best write your genre.

Do you know what your weak points as a writer are? Dialogue? Description? Info dumping? Read and pay attention to how other authors are doing it. If people regularly correct your dialogue tags, read and pay special attention to dialogue tags. Have you ever had someone tell you that your description was pretty but it slowed the pace? Read and pay attention to how authors weave description through activity rather than have blocks of description. Analyzing how authors are doing it right will help you to do it right as well.

Maybe you realize your prologue isn’t a good idea, but you don’t know how to weave the world building or that backstory through the novel in a cohesive and subtle way. Aspiring authors should read published works and pay attention to how they did it. Use a highlighter and note every time you read a passage about the past. Whether it is dialogue or exposition or an internal monologue, experienced authors have perfected info dropping instead of info dumping, and you can learn from them.

Exercise: Choose a book you've already read that's within the genre you write. Read the first three chapters again, this time pinpointing the things you'd like to improve in your own writing. Highlight it, mark it with a pencil. If you're interested in improving your characterization, hone in on the authors word choice in the dialogue. If it's the MC, really dissect the language the author uses in exposition. Mark where the character makes decisions - those are telling of his or her character. Really analyze how the author placed the things you'd like to improve upon. Re-reading a book is sometimes better as it's less for entertainment, and you won't get pulled into the book as much. You'll be able to actually see the words and not the story. When you do this once, perhaps you'll be able to see these things in new novels - no re-reading will be necessary. It's all about training your mind to be discerning. The more you're able to pick up on what authors are doing right, the more you'll be able to emulate their craft.

I’m sorry this second post in the series has taken so long to be put up, but…I’ve been reading. :)
And the next post is here.


  1. I love this. Analyzing books is basically a dream come true for me. I LOVE DOING IT!