Read like a Writer

I cannot consciously pick up a book to read it like a writer. What does it even mean to read like a writer? Well it doesn’t mean to pick the book to shreds, to madly underline glaring errors as you see them and then send off an essay to the author giving your precis of how they could do better. Unless maybe you are an editor.

My understanding of the term is this. To improve our own writing we should read books looking to explore how the author has used the rules of writing; for example has the protagonist changed by the end of the book, whether his problem is solved or not?

Rather than reading a book for the first time this way, a suggestion I have seen is to re read a work that you really love and to note how that author has integrated the rules of fiction writing. Have they used the 3 Act Structure or maybe Freytag’s Pyramid? Does each scene move the story forward?

Keep a notebook handy to jot down points and page or chapter numbers. Or, if you are not like me and don’t mind desecrating the pages, write notes direct to the page and underline like crazy. Just don’t do this if it is a library book!

Reading a book for the first time like a writer would take me so long and I know I would lose any enjoyment. But I do find sometimes a thought will arise that a scene was particularly good and how that turning point was so unexpected but it has kept the story moving forward. So maybe my subconscious writer’s mind is doing the work for me.

2 thoughts on “Read like a Writer

  1. Very handy tip about re-reading a much-loved book critically as a writer. Shall give it a go! (Or maybe I just want an excuse to revisit my beloved favourite, A Room with a View!)


    1. I have an old favourite in Camomile Lawn by Mary Wesley; I love all hers but that is my favourite. Because it is my go to read when I am a bit down I won’t read it as a writer, however another favourite is ‘Dust that Falls from Dreams’. I think that might be a contender, or as you say an excuse to read it again 🙂

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