What do you think about, focus on, and look for when you’re reading? When most of us read, we seek out entertainment and information. We want to fall into a story and let it take us away from our personal dramas for a little while, and we seek to improve ourselves by expanding what we understand about the world.
When readers approach a book, they should identify why they are reading. What is the purpose that brings them to the page? I know, of course, that many of us grab a book at the library and automatically dig into it like it’s chocolate cake because we have an inkling of what to expect. But if we take a moment to identify our needs first, our reading process can be more targeted. We can develop a writer’s mindset while we read.
Writers tend to read differently than other people. While many people have a love of language, an appreciation of the depth of narrative, and an acknowledgment of the writer’s talents, writers look for the how, what, and why of what went into the writing.
When writers read, we tend to ask more questions about the piece like:
When writers read, we look not only at how entertaining the narrative is or how instructional the piece is, but we also consider how the writer went through the process of coming up with an idea, researching the idea, then writing, editing, and revising the piece until it landed in the publishable form.
When we read as writers, we get into the mindset of being the reader and the writer simultaneously. As the reader, we want to be entertained or guided. We want the book to make us better people, better informed professionals, or happily entertained readers. We know how it feels to have a book take over our thoughts so that when we aren’t reading, we’re thinking about the book.
As writers, the complications of writing a book become clearer. We think about how to take an idea from its infancy to a fully developed piece. We think about the language and how to make sure that everything not only makes sense but connects with readers so that people get the most out of the reading that they can.
When I read like a writer, I ask how the writer constructs a book-length piece, but I also ask about what and why:
As we read with the writer’s mindset, we are digging into the writing, how it was constructed, what the writer meant by information they included, and why the book had a particular effect.
What a writer does when they read is analyze the piece while reading. We don't just think the way a reader does. We think about what it was like for the writer to create this piece. By getting into that mindset, every book we read becomes a roadmap for writing. Every book is a manual, and if we can pull it apart, we can get a peek behind the curtain and understand the writer’s work a little better.
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