This is part of a series on how to study fiction, mainly directed at writers who have read all the beginning writing books and are like, “What now?!?” The rest of the series is here.
Techniques to help handle reading issues (post-reading!):
You’ve read the book. Now what?
I’ll go into more depth about specific techniques as we go through the other elements of what you’re studying. For example, when we talk about pacing, I’ll explain how to drill down into how to study pacing in what you read.
But for now, the long and the short of it is:
Type it in.
If you want to know why something works or doesn’t work, the first step to analyzing it is to pop yourself out of the dreamland that is reading, and move behind the scenes. This is incredibly hard to do. Good writers are brainwashers, creating an almost inescapable spell over your attention span. If you try to read something in order to study it, you may pick up some things subconsciously, but you’ll probably fight against it. “No! I’m breaking the rules!”
Typing something in lets you stay conscious and awake, but doesn’t break the connection to your subconscious. Your subconscious learns whatever it’s going to learn (and learns it better, too, because of the extra time you spend with the text), and your conscious brain gets to make observations. It’s the difference between taking a bullet train over the landscape and walking on foot.
You cover a lot less ground, but it’s ground that you know in the soles of your feet.
Do you have to type in the entire book?
I recommend that you type in:
- Whatever element you’re currently studying, from several books that you enjoy.
As you’re moving into intermediate writing, the biggest priority most writers have is that their openings are terrible, start in the wrong place, are boring, or have a lot of action and no reason to give a crap.
Type in the first section, or maybe the first 1000 words, of anything you enjoyed reading after you finish it.
Even if you do nothing else from this series, this is the thing that’ll put you ahead of most of your compatriots after a few books. If you’re looking for “the big secret of writing success,” this is it. Type in openings for a while.
Looking for more writing advice? Why not sign up for my newsletter?