For this blog we’re going to be looking at how to read as a writer. What else can we squeeze out of our reading that can help us become better writers?

1. Tame your TBR and RE-READ!

The TBR acronym means ‘to be read.’

It’s that pile of books by your bed, or teetering in the lounge waiting for your attention. Maybe you dust around it occasionally, or balance your coffee mug precariously on top.

So what if you can’t afford now books and you can’t get down to your local library? Many experts agree that analysing books is easier when you know the book really well. So why not start with one of your absolute favourites? Read it again, soak it in, and distance yourself from the story to instead focus on the very bones of the structure. Try and figure out that elusive word chemistry that makes you love it so much.

2. So you got the books, what now?

I’m going to enable you stationery worshippers. Buy yourself a new notebook. Make it glitzy and sequinned: maybe like this…

And use it as a book analysis pad.

For every book, start a fresh page. Write the title, author, genre, age range; you can even sketch the cover if you’re an artiste. You can add interesting structural details – are there illustrations? Who by? How many chapters are there? You can even google the word count.

Find out what, EXACTLY, is getting published these days.

Next comes the important part. As you read, make notes. Maybe a chapter breakdown.

EG:

Chapter 1 – The protagonist, Lulu Bellfield, meets the antagonist, the witch. Four mice set up home in a caravan. There is a riot in the castle.

Bella Rose Pope explains it well over on You Tube: (be aware one use of bad language…)

You can section the chapters further; maybe into – beginning, middle and end. Can you find the inciting incident? The event that kicks the action off? The plot device that forces the protagonist (the main character) into action?

Can you spot the point of no return where the protagonist loses hope towards the end? Where it looks as though the problems are insurmountable… but then victory is snatched from the jaws of defeat?

How did the ending work for you? Would you have ended it a different way? Did you feel satisfied enough for a post-book cigar?

Is the book part of a series? Where does it fit? Have you already read the others… or will you?

If you had – is the overall story arc coherent? Is this book a good fit? Is it better or worse than those earlier in the series? Can you predict what will come next?

Also… don’t be afraid to consider the dark side – it can be just as helpful to analyse those books you DON’T like! What is it that bugged you? What spoiled the story? Take a careful look at what exactly turned you off, and make sure you don’t do it in your own writing.

3. The Voice

What do you make of it? Do you like it? Why?

Is the story being told by a character or a narrator? Is it in first (I said… I did…) or third person (she said, she went…) or something even more unusual? Maybe it’s a diary format, or even a blog like Chloe Seager’s EDITING EMMA.

Is there head-hopping? That’s when the story jumps around from different perspectives. Is it working for you as a reader, or is it annoying?

4. Character Analysis

Write a list of the characters. Are they memorable to you? Why? Can you picture them in your mind?

Are they three dimensional? Do they burst off the page? Or are they shallow and supportive, skulking miserably in the background?

Are they trustworthy? Or unreliable?

If you could cast the movie, which actors would you pick?

Do you wish something different happened to them? Would you like to know more? Has the story worked for you or should it have started in a different place, with a different protagonist character? Who is your favourite, and who is your least favourite? Why?

5. What about MY writing?

All of this reading is absolutely necessary to hone your craft. You have to work at staying up to date with the latest releases. Where does your work fit? Is your quality similar to that of published writers? Is your beginning as hooky, your middle as gripping, and your end as powerful?

On a practical, editing level you can use books as formatting models too – for example, check if you’re indenting correctly and polish your work up to what a published book looks like.

If you compare well, then you know your writing is getting there. If there is much difference in quality then work on your editing techniques, take your structure back to basics, and think hard about the books you’ve analysed to help you move forward. Bounce ideas off your Spark mentor, and participate in the discussion forums. We’re all here to help!

The formula is simple. The more you read, the better you’ll write.

For further inspiration consider a free short course on www.futurelearn.com

You work to your own pace, around your other commitments. At the moment they have several options, but most apt is this one, from the University of Edinburgh: https://www.futurelearn.com/courses/how-to-read-a-novel.

Carolyn Ward writes MG and is represented by Chloe Seager of Northbank Talent. Living near Wolverhampton in the West Midlands, Carolyn has an English degree and works in retail.

She became a mentor in Write Mentor’s first year, working closely with three talented writers and enjoying every second. She went on to develop her editing skills and now freelances for Bamboo Editing.

Three years ago she co-founded a local writing group based in a community pub and is also on YouTube as half of the Word Witches writer support duo. Between the MG edits she writes flash fiction and can be found all over the internet and on LingoBites foreign language app.

In her spare time she runs a telephone reading group for lonely older people with the charity Independent Age.

For more look on Twitter for: @Viking_Ma, @bambooediting, @WitchesWord and @CarolynWardWriter on FB.
Search ‘Introducing Word Witches’ on YouTube.

To find out more about being a telephone volunteer check out the website IndependentAge.org