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How to Read Like a Writer

How to Read Like a Writer


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Overview: Read like a Writer

  1. Ask meaningful questions
  2. Articulate your opinions — and use evidence
  3. Annotate or keep a reading log
  4. Create something inspired by what you read
  5. Target specific writing skills you want to improve
  6. Examine the larger context
  7. Reread


Readers fail when they allow themselves to believe the old mantra that fiction is the thing you relate to and writers the amenable people you seek out when you want to have your own version of the world confirmed and reinforced. That is certainly one of the many things...

Ask meaningful questions

  1. What are my favorite lines, and how do they make me feel?
  2. How does the author set the stage with her opening line?
  3. Since the author says the moon is her mother, what does the tone suggest about their relationship?
  4. What metaphor might I use to describe the same thing t...

Articulate your opinions — and use evidence

Write a  1 sentence summary of what the book was about and what I liked and didn’t like on a broad scale.

Then I’d spend a few sentences rating each metric: writing style, plot, characters, originality, intellectual value, and my personal enjoyment.

Articulate your Opinions - Examples

  1. Writing style- “concise” or “wordy.”
  2. Plot- slow versus fast paced, boring versus riveting.
  3. Characters- How attached am I to them, if they felt 3D, real, dynamic. Or, if the author intended for them to be caricatures, how it effected my reading experience.
  4. Originality ...

Annotate or keep a reading log

The point is to capture what makes the text emotionally relevant to you

Whenever you open a new book, that experience doesn’t exist in a vacuum. You bring with it all of the stories you’ve consumed before, your own philosophy of the world, and your knowledge base or assumptions.

If yo...

Create something inspired by what you read

It is possible to kill your enjoyment of storytelling if you go headlong into every book with a surgical knife. That’s why I find it’s best to read most books casually and just experience the story.

  1. Watch YouTube book reviews or interviews with the author.
  2. Create artwork inspir...

Target specific writing skills you want to improve

Narrow your focus to one of those elements. Smmarize each chapter to one sentence. In the end, reread your summary.

  1. What is the purpose of each scene?
  2. What character choices were most important/memorable?
  3. How did the focus of the story transform over time, and what were...

Examine the larger context

  • There’s no such thing as a wholly original work of literature
  • There’s a universal grammar of figurative imagery across literature
  • The intended audience and purpose of the text can factor into your interpretation


Rereading lets you get past your initial reactions to analyze why the story works or doesn’t work

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