Productive reading: analysis

Good teachers will always recommend that you “read and…” Which means that you read and look for solutions for problems you have in your own writing, build your vocabulary, discover what excites you as a reader, watch how the dialogue unfolds, etc.  And one of the best ways to launch your analysis is to ask questions of the author. Ask questions Let’s say you’re writing non-fiction.  In that case, the books you’re studying will give you the stakes up front.  They will tell you what to expect, what question they intend to pose and answer, and, essentially, what they will conclude (although they might be coy about that last bit). Therefore, you can immediately ask the first question: Will this book center/expand/challenge my work? If so, keep reading and form new questions about pacing, approach, tone, organization, burden of proof, etc.  If you think the book won’t help you…move on.  I know that seems cutthroat, but if you tried to

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Self-analysis for characters

I don’t want to give the impression that it’s not OK to shift and grow and change as a writer, both in habit and in personality.  In fact, that is vital to writing, because otherwise you would produce the same story over and over. On change Usually, you don’t need to force a change.  You just grow up, you move around, you learn new things, you experience new opportunities, and you continue to analyze yourself and write what is true to you as you go.  Some of your projects might be small enough that they encapsulate your voice at a moment in time.  Others will fluctuate with you. For instance, this productivity series is very much the encapsulation of two years of concerted work on interrelated projects, and captures my voice post-dissertation while I’m trying out new types of authority. My novel, on the other hand, has spanned about twenty years of my development as a person.  It looked like

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Fiction editing: lessons from the dialogue read-aloud

I expected to have additional lessons from the back half of the first edit to share with you, but it turns out that by the time you’re that far into your piece, it’s really about applying everything you’ve already learned and picking up speed. Instead, new lessons come this time from my first forays into the dialogue read-aloud. Yet again, the learning curve has been a bit of a shock.  Yet again, I figured I would be quick about it, soaring through this new form of editing like a trumpeter swan.  After all, I’ve already edited the entire book once for major plot and character overhaul.  How hard could it be to read the thing out loud and fix a little grammar? Hard.  Real Hard.  Like, I-am-less-a-swan-and-more-a-barnyard-chicken hard. So, in the spirit of transparency and education…some further lessons. Lesson thirteen: Fill out character sheets I know.  I know I said in the last set of lessons that you would know

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