30 January 2017

Read Like a Writer

Reading for pleasure is how I usually read. I read for information from New York Times, from articles my Facebook friends post that seem interesting or funny, and stories that hook me and provide escape from my daily grind. I do not ask questions. If I like what I read, I’d simply say: wow, that is great, and move on. Sometimes I’d look up the historical background, the social context and the author’s life if the work is truly intriguing or mind-blowing to me. Even though I consider myself a slow and close reader, I realize I am far from being reading like a writer.

Read Like a Writer (RLW) differs from my usual way of reading as Mike Bunn points out in his article titled How to Read Like a Writer. According to Bunn, RLW is reading like an architect or a carpenter. Writerly readers read to see how the text is constructed to achieve certain effects and convey central ideas to them. They ask questions before, during and after reading. Before reading, they ask questions such as what the author’s purpose and intended audience are; during and after reading, they ask why the author makes certain decisions about the word choice, the narrative structure, the dialogues, character development, the setting and tone etc., and how effective these choices are.  They also draw from their craft analysis valuable lessons and tools for their own creative writings.

For the two books I am reading now  –  Winesburg, Ohio by Sherwood Anderson and Olive Kitteridge by Elizabeth Strout, I will try to read like a writer: look for details on how short stories are strung together with creative narration, how effective the language is, and how both books portray small town characters and make them relatable.  Since I have had a vague idea of writing something similar, i.e. “Novel in Stories”, I hope to benefit from reading like a writer in my own writing and rewriting endeavor down the road.