Monday, November 26, 2012

Translating Reading to Fine Writing

As writers, we're admonished to read excellent books in our genre. Many post about how they analyze an author's style, plot, characters, and setting. As a Seat-of-the-Pants writer, this comes about as naturally as standing on my head.

So, how do I translate what I'm reading into principles I can integrate into my writing?

1) I read the story for pure enjoyment. If it grabs me and takes me on a breathtaking ride, I go with it.

2) After I finish, I evaluate how the book affected me. Did I keep getting pulled out of the story or was I engaged the entire time? Did the author create characters that were sympathetic or did I want to slap them silly? Was the ending satisfying or did it leave me feeling cheated?

3) When I narrow down the aspects of the book I liked and the ones I found unsatisfactory, I ask myself, "how did she/he do it?" Did the author make all those historical references a natural part of the story or did they pound me over the head with facts? What techniques did the author use to evoke an emotional response in me, the reader?

4) I then compare the methods against my WIP. I'll re-read sections and see if they're effective or need more work.

5) If I were reading my book, would I want to have a sequel or be disappointed at the end?

Writers: How do you translate what you read into tips for your own writing?

Readers: What makes a book go from so-so to so awesome?


Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

Hi Susan .. interesting - I wonder what I'd feel if when I finished a book I evaluated it at the end. I've no idea!! I just read .. enjoy, am bored, or very happy to read another ..

But I quite see what you say and I do enjoy reading sequels and got hooked into some authors when I was younger - then moved on ...

I hope to explore some creative writing ideas fairly soon ..

Cheers Hilary

Linda O'Connell said...

Susan, I am still taste testing left overs :)
I read for pleasure, but when I find a book I can't put down, I analyze every aspect of what the author did. Withthat said, I have my own style.

Wendy Paine Miller said...

My mom and I were just having a great conversation about how important endings are and how they really influence whether someone likes the book.
~ Wendy

Cindy R. Wilson said...

I've learned a lot from reading books over the years, but especially reading book beginnings lately. I try to see what kept my interested and what didn't and analyze why.

Jessica Nelson said...

Those are great tips!

Usually if I laugh or cry at a scene, I'll go back and examine how it was written, sentence structure, word choices, etc.

Jeanette Levellie said...

All I know about analyzing I've learned from my husband and Monk. It does not come naturally to me. Like you said, standing on my head.

But I do try to see how a great sentence is structured, or why certain metaphors work better than others.

I love plays on words. When I think, "Susan is a great role model," I think of a yeast role prancing down the runway in an evening gown--made of huckleberry jam, of course! Not that you remind me of a role... Oh, never mind!

Jeanette Levellie said...

I meant yeast roll. As in, roll. Oh, sheesh, I better go home!

Susan J. Reinhardt said...

Hi Hilary - Sure, join in the fun! You already have lots of blogging experience. :)

Hi Linda - Every writer should be true to their own voice, but they can glean techniques that will enhance their skills.

Hi Wendy - So true! I loved Gone With The Wind...until the end. Now, I use it as a prime example of a totally unsatisfactory ending.

Hi Cindy - Those first few pages are critical to capturing a reader's interest.

Hi Jess - Yes, an emotional response piques my interest as well.

Hi Jen - LOL! I love your method, but I'm a bit too literal to put it into practice.

Susan :)

Rhonda Schrock said...

I like that: As a Seat-of-the-Pants writer, this comes about as naturally as standing on my head.


I simply know if it was written or not and if I enjoyed it or not.

Sarah Forgrave said...

Great post, Susan. I've been in a rut creatively for a while, and I decided to go back and read some books by one of my all-time favorite authors, just for fun. When I was finished, I felt like I'd spent time with my best friends. And as a nice side benefit, it inspired me to dive back into my story again.

Terri Tiffany said...

I'm trying to do that now with the book I'm reading as it is written in the first person like mine is. I'm trying to evaluate how it is laid out and what makes me like it.

Susan J. Reinhardt said...

Hi Sarah - Maybe that's what I need to do! I've been in a major slump.

Hi Terri - I don't know what it will take to get me moving forward again. My favorite authors need to release more books!

Susan :)