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  • Writer's pictureJenna Moreci

How To Read Like A Writer

HelloOoOo everybody!

If you're a writer, you've probably heard countless people tell you the importance of reading. You don't need to read fast, you don't need to read hundreds of books a year, but you do need to read. Because that's the best way to understand the craft. Now I personally recommend reading all sorts of genres, but at the very least, you need to read the genre in which you're planning to write because that will give you an idea of your target audience's expectations. That's what we're talking about today.

Some writers, especially if they've been in the industry for a while, aren't able to turn off the writing side of their brain while they're reading. I'm one of those writers. I notice every grammatical error, I see every single plot device, and I'm constantly analyzing the pacing, the structure, and the tropes utilized. But if you haven't been in the writing gig for long, you may not have this problem. In fact, you may wanna get more out of your reading so you can grow as a writer. I'm gonna give you the basic steps to do just that.

Let’s break down the steps for reading as a writer, especially if you're reading within your genre. This topic was requested by one of my newsletter subscribers, Bhagyashree. Thank you so much for the amazing idea. And if you'd like the chance to request a video topic of your own, subscribe to my newsletter, I got it linked right here. Now I'm gonna tell you all the ways you can learn about writing, simply by cracking open a book, so you can read like a writer and get the most out of your TBR. First things first, when you pick out your next read from within your genre there are five things you're going to want to analyze.

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Number 1: Structure

First up is structure, which is the backbone of every novel. Structure refers to the format in which your story is told, and every novel has one. On the most basic level, a storytelling structure includes the inciting incident, rising action, climax, falling action, and resolution. If you're new to the writing game, a great starting point is to read through fiction and try to pinpoint all of these moments within the book. For example, the inciting incident is when the main character is thrust into action. In The Savior's Champion, this is when Tobias races toward the pool so he can enter The Sovereign's Tournament. Begin by reading through your TBR, and locating each of these structural elements. This will not only ingrain storytelling structure into your mind, but it'll also help you generate ideas on how to implement these elements into your own work. Once you feel comfortable with the basics of structure, branch out into more minute structural elements, especially from within your specific genre. The breaking point is a very common structural element in fantasy romance, so when I'm reading my genre, I try to locate the breaking point and see how the author handled it.

Number 2: Plot

The second point to analyze is the plot, which heavily overlaps the structure, but now we're going to go so much deeper. That sounded a little sexual, just please ignore that. This is where we analyze the story itself. The scenes, the expectations, and the stakes. When reading through your genre, pay attention to the types of scenes you usually experience. For example, when you're reading romance novels, more often than not you will come across a scene where the characters almost kiss and then for whatever reason, they're pulled away. This leads to paying attention to target readership expectations, the more often you see a particular plot device, the more you get the idea that this is an expectation among readers. In sci-fi space operas, readers usually expect several species of aliens, they expect a lot of space travel, and they expect adventure. And lastly, we run into stakes. Some novels have very high stakes like life or death. Others have low stakes, like heartbreak or happily ever after. Pay attention to how the plot unfolds and how much is at risk for your main character.

Number 3: Pacing

Next, you wanna look at pacing, which is how fast or slow a particular scene moves. This doesn't necessarily mean the scenes are long or short. Some scenes can be very fast-paced, but very long, and some scenes can feel very slow, but they're short. Pacing usually depends on sentence length, verb choice, and description. Powerful verbs often create a faster pace, and lengthy descriptions usually lend themselves to a slower pace. Long sentences can slow down the reading pace, whereas short sentences can speed it up. Now typically, most novels are made up of slow and fast-paced scenes, and that’s very normal. But you want an idea of the overall pace of the novel. Is it mostly slow or mostly fast? Action-adventure novels tend to be fast. Coming-of-age novels tend to be slow. Pay attention to how the author achieves this effect, and how you could potentially utilize that in your own work. Also, I've said it before and I'll say it again, know your genre. I've read a fourteen-page sex scene in a romcom before, and that sort of thing would never fly in a multitude of different genres. Analyze the sentence structure, the depth of description, and honestly just how fast or slow a scene feels. This will give you an idea of the proper pacing for your own work.

Number 4: Characterization

Next, we analyze my favorite part of writing, characterization. Tons of readers read for the characters, and even if they don't, shitty characters can still ruin the reading experience. First, pay attention to character types. Even if you're not familiar with standards in the genre, look for trends. Are you seeing a lot of warrior women who don't need a man to save them? Are we seeing a lot of tricksters and manipulators? Are you seeing a lot of royalty with a secret troubled past? What are the character traits you see associated with these main players? Are the main characters often bumbling and fumbling, whereas the love interest is seemingly perfect? Are the villains widely adored and worshiped, whereas the main character is an underdog? How do you react to these characters? Do you empathize with them? Why or why not? Pinpoint the characters that draw you in and study them. Note this is not so we can copy and regurgitate characters, it's so we can learn what we are most drawn to. Also, pinpoint characteristics that don't work for you. What about them is turning you off? Honestly, this section alone could be its own video, in fact, I am planning on writing a book about this. Bottom line you are looking for characters who most call to you, who get you invested in their story, and you're trying to analyze why that is.

Number 5: Prose

And last but not least, you gotta analyze the author's prose. This covers a wide range of content because we're looking at the writing itself. Pay attention to grammar, sentence structure, and syntax. Is it working for you or is it stilted? How does the writing change from scene to scene? Compare an emotional scene to an action-packed scene. What's the difference on a sentence level? Is the author leaning into purple prose, or are they straightforward and to the point? Pay attention to your descriptions. We’re talking about settings, character, body language, clothing—all of it. What is standing out for you? What are different tactics that you can use to improve your own writing? Did the author describe something in a way you'd never considered? Did the author drone on until you wanted to put the book down and kick it into a corner? This process is fun for me because this is where you get to see the personality of the writer.

Number 6: Trends

Now that you know exactly which elements to analyze, it’s time to take this knowledge and put it to use. Starting with the basics, what are the common trends you see within this genre? What are the structural elements, plot devices, pacing, character types, and writing styles that you most often come across? I'm going to use my own genre as an example, based on the books I've read. Starting with structure, fantasy romance books I've read usually start with a moment of violence or wickedness, and the inciting incident often occurs in the second chapter. Looking into the plot, I've yet to see a fantasy romance book that didn't include a dark night of the soul, or, as I like to call it, the breaking point. On a pacing level, we usually see fast-paced fight scenes and slower-paced romance. Characterization will always vary no matter the genre, but you're going to see some characters that pop up more than others. In fantasy romance we see a lot of anti-heroes, we see cinnamon rolls, warrior princesses, assassins, and so on. And when we look at the prose, this will almost always be on a novel-by-novel basis.

Number 7: Tropes

Next, you wanna take a look at tropes. Which ones resonated with you? Anyone who tells you to avoid tropes in writing is full of shit. You should avoid cliches which are overused tropes, but you can't avoid tropes if you try. If you're writing and reading murder mysteries, you'll probably come across these tropes:

  • The whodunit, which I'd argue is a requirement for the genre.

  • A red herring or early suspect.

  • An antihero detective who is cynical and jaded, and maybe disgraced.

  • Incompetent police, which honestly pairs well with the former point.

  • A nosy reporter or neighbor.

  • A victim that everyone hated.

  • And, of course, a twist ending.

Some of these tropes may be staples of the genre, which means you are more or less obligated to include them. Other tropes are a free-for-all, and in that case, which ones did you enjoy most? Those are the ones you wanna include in your writing.

Number 8: What Worked?

And now we get to the most obvious point, what about this book worked for you? You're not reading with the intention of copying; you're reading to find elements that you are drawn to and analyze how that author utilized them. Look back at everything you've learned. What spoke to you as a reader? Even if you didn't love a book, you could still find elements that worked for you. For example, I'm interested in writing contemporary romance or romcoms in the future, so I've been reading a lot of books within that genre. The most recent romcom I read was a solid three stars. The plot wasn't really my jam, I wasn't particularly invested in the characters, but I absolutely loved the prose. I really enjoyed the descriptions and there was a lot of clever wordage used during the romantic moments. They did a good job writing sex scenes without making them gross or cringy. Because of this, I was still able to get a lot out of the reading experience. Even though the book wasn't exactly my cup of tea. I analyze their writing style, word usage, and descriptions in order to improve my own.

Number 9: What Didn’t Work?

Last but not least, what didn't work for you? Just because you wanna write in a genre, doesn't mean you have to hop aboard every trend that pops out. For example, it's very common in fantasy romance for there to be an alpha male. This usually means a guy who is predatory, domineering, and controlling. As a reader, this doesn't appeal to me. Those characters just make me annoyed and uncomfortable. But just because it's a common trend doesn't mean I have to include it in my work. If it's not a requirement of the genre, you don't have to write it, period. I've also found techniques and prose that were a bust in my opinion, usually in regard to world-building and descriptions. You're not obligated to mirror every author in your genre. In fact, that would be impossible. The point of reading as a writer is to pick and choose which information is valuable to you. Pay attention to the writing styles and storytelling choices that make you roll your eyes or wanna put the book down. Don't write that shit. I cannot stand books that are overflowing with purple prose, so I try to limit the purple prose in my own books. It's really as simple as that.

So that's all I've got for you today!

Author Jenna Moreci.

Once you've done that, congratulations, you have analyzed your TBR like a writer. Take all that good stuff you've learned and use it to improve your work. Oh, and don’t forget to sign up for my seven-day email course with MiblArt, it is free to participate in. I've got it linked here.


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