Reading like a Writer or Look what I Learned.
As part of my course we were told to read more.
Sounds obvious, you're doing a creative writing course so reading is surely a prerequisite and for me, it didn't feel like a massive inconvenience as I love to read.
Little did I know that after fifty years of reading I have changed how I read.
I am right at the end of my course - I have three weeks before I have to hand in my final dissertation and it has been a life changing experience.
During the course I have written a book (which I am currently editing, as I try to find an agent) and have three more in various stages of development.
I am going to whisper this bit as I don't think it's true yet - I'm a writer - shhh.
Anyway, reading. So now, when I read a book I look at it very differently.
At first, when they talked on my course of 'reading like a writer' I was like - you what?
Now, I get it.
I open a book and look at the opening line - does it draw me in, is it a well constructed sentence - what makes me want to read on?
Then I continue to read, why are the chapters so long/short/weird?
What on earth is THAT sentence doing there!
Then you get to the dialogue - would that character say that to this person, or why is he saying that - do they sound like humans, what is that dialect? Dialogue is harder than you think.
Characters are always interesting, or in less good books, not. Characters (for me) make or break a book - where would The Handmaids Tale be without Offred. Or all those Dicken's books where they are quite literally named after the main characters - Oliver Twist, David Copperfield, Martin Chuzzlewit.
As you continue to read you realise that a writer has quite a descriptive style or is perhaps less literary in their approach - both are fine with me if they are done well.
If you enjoy a massive paragraph and a beautiful description I would recommend Rachel Cusk's trilogy, Outline, Kudos and Transit - although why she wrote the last book is still a mystery to me.
For something more contemporary try Queenie by Candice Carty-Williams.
Has the centre of your book got a soggy middle? Does nothing much happen - is it all just filler until the end....
The End - this is everything, a whole book can be ruined by an ending (Jodi Picoult - I am looking at you and your book Spark of Light), but a brilliant ending is everything. Have you ever been in floods of tears at the end of a book when suddenly it all comes together brilliantly (here I am looking at Joanne Cannon and her book Three Things about Elsie - I was broken for days afterwards...maybe I'm naive and should have seen it coming, but hey!).
And the last line of a novel - now that can make or break it - take Bram Stokers Dracula,
“We want no proofs; we ask none to believe us! This boy will some day know what a brave and gallant woman his mother is. Already he knows her sweetness and loving care; later on he will understand how some men so loved her, that they did dare much for her sake.”
Or 1984 by George Orwell
"He loved Big Brother."
Amazing last words.
I have to have a paper and pen by my bed now, I write down quotes, underline bits I like, scribble ideas, little inspirations - I am currently reading Neuromancer by William Gibson. Last night I wrote down four words:
The first three words were to double check I had understood their meaning - the last one was it made me think, could I write something about that, is their a sub-culture, that kinda thing.
This is what I found out today:
Epicantic - denoting a fold of skin from the upper eyelid covering the inner angle of the eye, typical in many peoples of eastern Asia and found as a congenital abnormality elsewhere. This wasn't what I thought it meant so I've learned a new thing - Yay.
Mimetic - relating to, constituting, or habitually practising mimesis, from the Greek to imitate. This was what I thought it meant.
Polysaccharides - a carbohydrate (e.g. starch, cellulose, or glycogen) whose molecules consist of a number of sugar molecules bonded together. This half explained my understanding.
Technofetishist - There's a Pinterest page - Instagram Hashtags and a song called this. But I don't think there is a sub culture as such - disappointed.
So, that's it, some of what I have learnt, and I can't recommend reading enough.