Monday, July 5, 2010

Reading Like a Writer: Introducing a New Craft Series

A few years back, Francine Prose (can you imagine a more perfect writerly name?) wrote a terrific book titled Reading Like a Writer. In it she asserts that in order to learn how to write, a writer must first read – read analytically, read critically, read everything. At Vermont College we have a craft session on reading like a writer in which we analyze books through on-line discussion; during our first two semesters we’re required to write numerous analytical essays that force similar examinations of others’ work.

I’m beginning a new segment on my blog – an occasional segment in which I’ll analyze some aspect of contemporary middle grade and young adult fiction, and invite you to chime in with comments.

In my first analysis, after I return from my Vermont College graduation (yay!) toward the end of July I’ll compare two recent novels:
Jandy Nelson’s The Sky is Everywhere, and
Holly Cupala’s Tell Me a Secret.

These novels contain similar themes and plots, which they both handle successfully, but they are quite different in style and tone.

For now, I’d like to review a few of the ideas that Prose puts forward.

·      Reading like a writer requires close reading. Every word, phrase, image, everything in a piece is important. This is not the “character analysis” or “plot summary” kind of reading, but specific reading.

·      Certain writers endure. Certain works endure. We may not all like Jane Austin, but there’s no doubt that her novels endure. The question is…why?

·      If a writer is struggling with how to create a certain mood, scene, or exchange, it is beneficial to look carefully at how other authors handle the same tricky material. How does dear Jane handle party scenes? How does Hemingway use dialogue?

I hope you’ll join me in my quest. If you have books you’d like to see analyzed, let me know. If you have ideas you’d like to see me pursue, have at ‘em.

Look for my first post on "Reading Like a Writer" toward the end of July.


ellen said...

Oh, so you're just teasing us here. I have to WAIT to read this? You're tough, Janet Fox, you're tough. But I'm looking forward to it.

Anonymous said...

Love it! I am going to read these analyses closely. Great idea :)


Janet Fox said...

Thanks, guys! Ellen - see, this will give you a chance to read the books...

If you really want to get ahead, I'm tackling some Richard Peck next. :)

Please do come back when I start the discussion. It should be fun.