June 5, 2014

Read Like A Writer

Writing well often depends on reading well, which means studying poems or other writings to see what works and why. To analyze what you read, ask questions of the text. For example, ask:

Why did the poet or writer use that particular form, structure, setting, viewpoint, character, or ____ (fill in the blank)?

What effect did that decision have on the poem or manuscript?

Is the style formal or chatty, and does that enhance the story or topic?

Does the poem or manuscript have a rhythmic flow when read aloud?

What words jump out? Do they add emphasis or reinforce a sound effect or encourage readers to think more about the topic?

Also, notice sensory details. Then analyze whether the poet or writer relied more heavily on the sense of sound, sight, smell, taste, touch, or feeling. A well-written poem or manuscript might tap into all of the senses.

Notice the viewpoint or perspective too. What would happen if a first person poem or story (I, me, mine, we) were written in second person (you) or third person (he, she, his, hers, them, they)?

Asking questions of a poem or manuscript may seem awkward at first, but your interrogation skills will improve with practice. To ease the task, start with a book, story, article, or poem you think is poorly written, and focus on the flaws. Identify each as clearly as you can, then consider how this might have been handled differently. If you suspect your writing has a similar flaw, ask questions of it too! See what’s not working and why. Then correct those mistakes as you revise.

© 2014 - 2010 Mary Harwell Sayler, reviewer and poet-author of Living in the Nature Poem, the Bible-based poetry book Outside Eden, and other traditionally published books

Christian Poet’s Guide to Writing Poetry, e-book

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