Researching to know your genre
So, everyone tells you to research in order to know your genre. But what does that really mean? Today, I’m going to discuss reading like a writer.
Francine Prose wrote in her book Reading like a Writer:
“If we want to write, it makes sense to read—and to read like a writer. If we wanted to grow roses, we would want to visit rose gardens and try to see them the way that a rose gardener would.”
So, how do we do this?
What is Reading like a Writer
I’m going to assume you are experienced readers, and you have been reading books and texts like readers for a while. But for you same readers, the concept of reading like writers–or reading to identify writing techniques–is new. It’s hard to “cook up” techniques when you don’t know what to look for.
To grow, as writers, you must be able to recognize craft in professional writing and bring it back to your own work. But this kind of reading does not come easily.
The first step in reading like a writer is to read to notice the overall ideas of the story. This could be the tropes the author is using, the theme of the story, character types, anything that adds to the overall meaning. This gives you an idea of what the writing is doing in their genre. Making sure you are matching the conventions of the genre and reader expectations should be your first goal.
Second, break down the pieces, into different techniques to focus on. When doing this, ask yourself: Why did the writer write it like that? Think about why the writer used this craft and how it enhances their ideas.The point is to examine the possibilities as to why a writer might craft a piece in a particular way. Noticing writing techniques means noticing things that are close to the words, close to the text. Examples to look for: repetition, word choice, or the structure of the text. This is different than responding to reading ideas such as “It flows” or “It has great description.”
What techniques you might notice as a writer
· Repetition: repeating a word or a phrase
· The Power of Three: three words used in a row to create emphasis
· Onomatopoeia: sound words
· Interesting Punctuation: ellipses, dashes, colon, parentheses
· Figurative language: simile, metaphor, personification
· Stretching out the print
· Intentional sentence fragments: used to create rhythm and flow
· White space (Dialogue used for pacing.)
· Hyphenated adjectives
Once you’ve discovered a craft technique, name it, then try to emulate it in your own writing. I love doing this for particularly striking sentences when reading, but you can do this at the scene level too. Break down a scene and ask what makes this scene so appealing? You can also ask, why is this scene not appealing to me?
Questions to ask when noticing craft
· What did you notice as you read?
· How is the white space used differently?
· What I noticed next was…
· Many people who write often…
Form a theory about the craft technique
· Why would a writer do this?
· How does this help you as a reader?
· Are there other places in this text where the author has done this?
· When you find other instances of this, how does that affect your theory? Does it make your more certain? Does it nudge you to reconsider?
· Does this help your theory grow? If so, how?
Explore other authors
· Do we know other writers who do this?
· Let’s explore one of these texts and see if we notice any other writers who do this.
· What do you notice in these texts?
· Consider your theory and check it in this title. Are both authors doing this for the same reason?
· Is there more than one reason to use this crafting technique? What other possibilities are you thinking of?
Dora Blume is a middle school English teacher by day, writer by night. She tends to write books with spunky, bad-ass female characters, random movie quotes from the 90’s, and page-turning adventure. She lives just outside of Minneapolis with her two dogs, Jack and Bailey. Check out her paranormal books today!