Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Reading Books from a Writer’s Perspective

Not just write, we scribblers love to read too. Actually, its  our love for reading that more often than not fuels our desire to write. The more we read, the more we want to write. From the past several months I have noticed that I am reading books with a different perspective. From a writer’s perspective.

Earlier I  would just read: for pleasure, entertainment, because the author was my favourite, or, because the story appealed to me. But nowadays I read like someone  possessed. A confession has to be made; it takes me longer to read a book now, than earlier. One reason is because of time constraints, but the other reason, the main  reason is because I want to really enjoy the book, let the story unfurl in my mind like a cat stretching its supple body.

After reading a book, I mull over it. What about the book appealed to me a lot? How did the author introduce the characters? Was justice done to the side or peripheral characters? Was the tension tight? What about the conflict? Did it completely absorb me in its grip? Did I get bored at any point? If yes, why? Was it because of flat and boring descriptions? Too much back story.  How about the dialogue? Did it take the story forward? Was it crucial to the scene? Did it sound authentic? What about the setting? Was it original? Was the style racy?

If a paragraph appeals to me, I read it  and reread it. It’s as though I want to memorize it. Several times I close the book for a second or two, to visualize the scenes.  
After reading  the book,  I write down my thoughts on a piece of paper, as though I am doing a private review of the book, or a break down  of the book  for the purpose of  learning the craft of writing in detail. This exercise does take some  time, but its well worth the effort. I see the book not just from a reader's perspective, but also a writer’s viewpoint. I think about what I liked about the book and what I didn’t like. At which  point did I stop believing in the characters? Which  trait in the character made me fall in love with him or her?  Could what I like be enhanced and the bits I didn’t  like be changed for the better? This exercise in particular is really effective, it gives the brain cells and writing muscles a good workout.

If a book is extremely successful,  it’s easy to understand why? And if it isn’t, again  the reasons for it not scoring with the readers become clear.  It makes me aware of the elements in my story: which elements would appeal to the readers and which would bore them. It also   familiarizes me with the current  market  trend. What kind of books appeal to the readers, and which books though published are not attracting the readers.

What about you all? Do you read books solely for pleasure, or, do  you read them from a writer’s perspective? Please  share with us.


  1. Wonderful post. You always have thought provoking posts. And you are generous with sharing knowledge. Thanks! Will tweet about this!

  2. I used to read books for pleasure only. AAAAHHH THose were the days. Now I read to learn and to compare and to study them and I wish wish sometimes to only read for enjoyment! Is this the writer's curse? LOL

  3. I'm with Terri, I used to only read for pleasure, but now my reading does double duty. Like you, I also read like a writer now. I've paid more attention to structure, foreshadowing, etc. It's another helpful tool for us writers!

  4. I've always loved reading. Like you say, it was my love of reading that underscored my love for writing. And having studied literature and creative writing, my abilities as a reader now are more honed than before. I love that. I feel like it gives me more insight into a story, because I see how the author constructed it, how the characters evolved, and what point the author is trying to make, if any.


  5. It's a great post as always. Yes, I do read like a writer. Two friends and I who used to critique each other's work decided we knew each other's novels so well we couldnt add any new insight, so about a year ago we started meeting once a month to read award winning authors in our genre and analyze their work to see why it's so good. It's been instructive, to say the least, and I do find myself "editing as I go" more now, when I write my own stuff. But I do read for pleasure at the same time. Somehow, noticing what makes a piece of work makes it a more pleasurable read instead of less.

  6. Both! I definitely read from a writers perspective. It's SO rare now for me to get lost in a book and not notice how I would have done things different. Great post. I love this topic!

  7. Taking the time to analyze a book you've read has to be one of the best self-teaching techniques that writers can do. It's work, and I don't take it to the level you have, but I know how much I learn just critiquing.

    I do read like a writer now. I think it enriches my experience.

  8. I love reading and learning at the same time from great books. This is a wonderful post. I like the exercise you do--I may try it myself with my next book!

  9. Anonymous, thanks for the sweet words!

    Terri, this is a writer's curse. Its nice to know that other writers feel the way I do. I feel happy to know that I am not alone.

    Julie, my days of reading for pleasure are long gone. But, I don't mind. This way I am learning something new every time I open a book.

    Jai, I too have studied literature in college and that is responsible for my love for the classics. I still prefer to read a well written book, than just a popular one. As a child I loved reading, maybe that is the reason I write.

    Elizabeth, analyzing why a particular book has done so well is one of the best exercises we writers can do.

    Anne, my reading and writing does get mixed up, I constantly think that if I had written a particular book how would I have handled certain situations.

    Rahma, reading like a writer is extremely enriching and one of the best self teaching techniques we writers can do.

    Lydia, reading and learning go hand in hand. Let me know how the exercises go, when you try them.