SOLC 13 of 31: Reading like a writer

I’m a better writer because I’m a reader. It’s not that I get to read all of the time, I don’t.  It’s just that when I do, not only am I enjoying the story, but I notice the craft choices that engage me.  I notice strong leads, chapters that move from character to character in the perspective of the story, chapter titles, and little details that the author chose to include.  Sometimes, when I’m tired, I find myself skipping some of those details, and then I force myself to go back and reread them because, as Lester Laminack says, “they were put there intentionally and on purpose.”

As a writer, I’m not always cognizant of the craft choices I make, but I do know that they creep in.  When I make photobooks for my own children, the stories are often mentored after a favorite book or genre or style.  Borrowing from writers we love can help shape the kind of writer that we are.

I’ve also noticed that when I vary the types of things that I read, I more often vary the types of writing I do.  For instance, I’ve been reading some Travel Literature recently – not guides, but more journals of the traveler’s experiences.  I’m going to Costa Rica shortly and am thinking…how would I write about my trip to Costa Rica if I were trying to write a book that documented my journey the ways these books do?  I’m not sure. I’ve never tried it.  But it trying it, might be a good way to push myself into trying a genre that I haven’t explored before.

For our students, too, we need to model this.  We need to think-out-loud the ways that books can inspire our writing and work to strengthen the reading/writing connection. We need to ask them to think, “What does this author do intentionally and on purpose that I can do in my writing?”  With this in mind, we will be driven to do things and try things in our own writing that we may not naturally have thought to do.

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2 Comments

  1. mj said,

    March 13, 2012 at 11:23 pm

    I must confess that although I have long been a reader and a teacher, I am only beginning to read like a writer. I have enjoyed many a book but until recently I never really stopped to think about what the author did that made the writing really appealing to me. I was one of those teachers who used those trusty phrases ‘show don’t tell’ and ‘add more detail’. I never explained what they meant to my students because I really hadn’t thought about what they meant. My poor students! Two authors who have helped me start are Lori Jamison and Elizabeth Hale. Now I am a reader with new eyes.

  2. elsie said,

    March 14, 2012 at 12:51 am

    I love that you are reading as a writer these days. I think that is powerful. The more I know about craft, the more I notice it in writing. I just never knew what it was before. Now I do.


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