Reading Like a Writer

Writing has ruined reading for me. I still enjoy reading, but now I read like a writer.

What does it mean to read like a writer? It means reading to learn, analyzing the author’s word choices, analogies, and metaphors. It means taking the time to look beyond and beneath the ideas with a weird sort of x-ray vision to understand the skeletal framework that holds the piece together. For me, at least, reading like a writer means I scrutinize how the writer conveys an idea rather than the idea itself.

A Boy Reading a Book

Image by Daehyun Park via Flickr

When I read fiction, I judge the merit of a book by how little time I spend analyzing it. If I become so engrossed in the tale, swept away by another person’s imagination, that I don’t stop to pick it apart, it’s a good book. If, on the other hand, I find myself thinking about how I’d do it differently, or what might have worked better, the book scores lower on my scale. The kicker is, I’m just as likely to go back to the book I loved and pick it apart on a second reading to see what makes it tick, as I am to see what made the other one a turn-off.

No matter how many years you’ve been writing, you can always benefit from paying attention to how someone else does it. We are always learning, always seeking new ways to present ourselves and our ideas.

How do you read? Do you go with the flow, lost in the ideas of the writer, or do you look deeper? Do you read like a writer?

4 comments on “Reading Like a Writer

  1. I find that I can very easily get lost in a story if the writing is good. It only take a small mistake or oddly worded sentence to pull me out of the story but I’m there in the beginning.

    (is there a reason this text box grows with ever letter I type?)

    • Charlee, I don’t know about the text box thing. It must be a word press “feature.” 😉

      As the years pass, I find it harder and harder to get lost in stories without taking them apart. Even if I do get lost in the story, if I catch a mistake, I find myself thinking of how I would fix it.

  2. I love getting lost in stories, but I also read like a writer. If I fall into a book and keep reading without analyzing how it works, then I’ll spend time afterwards thinking about how the author pulled off such a feat. I’ve learned so much from great books–just finished “A Thousand Acres” by Jane Smiley at 2 a.m. last night, because I couldn’t put it down, and I’ll be thinking about how she ruthlessly ratcheted tension up throughout the novel despite its initial appearance as a “quiet” farm story.

    • I don’t know which I like more, picking apart a story that doesn’t work for me, or taking apart one that blows me away.

      My husband says I’ve ruined movies for him, because after years of listening to me analyze and dissect stories, he now does the same thing, and he’s not a writer!

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