Study Books to Improve Writing

Over the years, I’ve done a lot of book discussion groups and have discovered that by looking at a book carefully you can learn a lot that will help with your own writing. I like to go through a book a chapter at a time. Sometimes I’ll include trivia questions about the book for fun; especially groups for kids and teens.

When reading a book for a discussion, I like to summarize the book chapter by chapter. After each chapter I’ll write a few sentences summarizing what happened. By doing this I’ve discovered pacing, flow, plot, and character development. The length of a chapter can enhance the pace of the story. Good books have chapters where the last page makes the reader keep reading to find out what happens next. How does the author build curiosity and suspense in each chapter? How can I do that with my writing?

When making up trivia questions, I’ve found that the more tiny details an author packs into a book, the better. But it has to be done well otherwise too many details slow down the story and bore the reader. The books I’ve read where I can only come up with one or two questions of interesting facts or details per chapter usually aren’t my favorite reads. By contrast, when the author includes many tight but pertinent details, I find that the book reads well, holding my attention and imagination. The reader absorbs these details without effort.

I recommend that you make a note of the page numbers in order to go back and look things up; especially if you are doing trivia. You will be amazed at how many details some readers remember!

Take one of your favorite books and study it to learn more about the craft of writing. Let me know what you discover.

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5 thoughts on “Study Books to Improve Writing

  1. you make some very salient points–I love details as long as you do not notice them

  2. I mean notice them in that they then take away from the story

  3. drybredquips says:

    Thanks for liking “reality TV” and your comment about it. I think reality TV is, relatively speaking, cheaper to produce. One way writers create suspense in a scene is have the reader know something that at least one character in the scene doesn’t know. It gives the reader a feeling of knowledge superiority and puts the reader on edge as to whether the ignorant character will find out the hidden information in time for it to benefit him or her in some way. The movie suspense king. Hitchcock, called this “the man in the closet,” whom the audience saw get into the closet, but whom the female resident doesn’t know about as she comes home and goes about getting ready for bed.

  4. LillianC says:

    I worked through Laura Kinsale’s For My Lady’s Heart to see just how she put the romance and the historical plot together. Taught me a lot about story structure and where to add in the important information.

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