Is the image confusing? It should and it shouldn’t be depending on how you take it. Some people thing that writing is quite simple, that it’s just putting words on the page in a discernible order so that sentences and then paragraphs and then pages can form and create a cohesive story. That’s part of it to be honest, but there’s a lot more to writing than just that. Any of those reading this that have ever written a book should hopefully get something out the picture above and be able to nod their head and say “I get it”. For those that don’t however, let me break it down.
Reading like a writer means you’re paying attention.
It’s not just paying attention to the story, but to the elements that make the story what it is. You’re able to look at each and every line and determine how it goes with the story and how it makes up the overall form of the tale to create that cohesion that is so vital to any story and can make or break it from the start. A good tale will obviously suck you in and keep your attention with with imagery and description that you can see in your mind’s eye and will want to continue seeing as you turn each new page. Some readers can go for hours without resting their eyes, devouring entire books in a matter of hours or a few days simply because they can’t wait to see what comes next.
But despite all this, it also means that the story has been pieced together in such a way that they can’t help but admire the tale and how fluid it is. The writing reader will pay attention to the careful details and the attention to the story that the average writer will put into each page, and will be able to find moments when the train of thought slips or is otherwise derailed for just a short spell. It does happen to every writer, but those that recognize it are typically those that know how to right it in their own mind and thus continue the tale without any feeling of disconnect.
As a reader we tend to want to be entertained. But as a writer we want to take a peek behind that curtain since we know what’s there.
To be a little more accurate we know what SHOULD be there, not what tricks the writer really has up their sleeve. If you’ve written long enough however you’ve likely come to the point that you have a good idea what a literary device is and why it’s so important to a story. You’ll also have figured out just how some authors use these devices to their benefit and in what way they tend to favor using them. Writers are complicated to figure out until you’ve read enough of their material, then their overall theme becomes a little easier to see and to divine when reading each new book they put out.
While writer’s do tend to switch it up from time to time, being able to read like a writer means that you’ll recognize this and be able to roll with the changes and perhaps come to understand the mindset of the writer a little better as their work changes. A few of the greats have definitely switched gears throughout their time in the spotlight and it shows through their different works.
Writing is very much like a puzzle found in the center of a maze wrapped in a mysterious shroud.
Sounds a bit melodramatic doesn’t it? It’s true though, good writing will seem like it has many layers to it and will also be put together in a way that connects one part to another and so on and so forth. Some stories are completely linear and that’s perfectly fine, while others seem to jump from one spot to another while maintaining a central idea that everything rotates around, and that’s fine too. It’s not so much the form of the story as it is the function and the idea that it does flow in one way or another so that the reader can understand it.
Plus, if you come to understand one tenet of writing out of everything else you should get by just fine. Too many people get hung up on syntax, form, function, and getting everything perfect. Just remember, there is no perfection in writing. Writing is a crazy, out of control process that few people, if any, can really ever control, and it’s a craft that invites as much madness as it does order.
Learning to read like a writer means that you’ll be able to differentiate between the two, that’s all.