I attended a writer’s conference last summer and picked up some amazing techniques for improving my writing. But there was one piece of advice I scoffed at when I first heard it, only to realise later it proved to be the best recommendation I’d ever received. One of the presenters suggested if you wanted to really know how to write a successful story, analyse several of your favorite books. Here’s how you can learn from the best.
Select a couple of novels in your genre
Think of books that have captivated your heart and left you wanting more, well after you’re finished reading them. Those are the books you want to choose. They have a story arc that works with characters and a writing style you relate to. Make sure you purchase another copy of these books because you’re going to write all over it and if you want to keep your first copy in good condition you won’t want to use that. Try to find two of three novels, because it’s important to see patterns in several works to compare them to one another.
Writing tools you’ll need
Once you’ve decided on your books, you need to choose what tools to use that will work for you. I like using a pencil but if you feel a pen, colored gel pens, pencil crayons or colored pens are better for you, use them but be consistent. I found a highlighter very useful but chose to use only one color. The presenter talked about using five different colors, each representing a different element in the story. For me this seemed to confusing and to much to keep track of, however everyone is different and if it appeals to you it will likely work for you.
What to look for
You’ll want to locate the major plot points and write notes on how the author shifted from one plot point to the next. This is very useful as it gives you a clear idea of what each plot point can look like to different writers. Notice how they work through each scene and move onto the next. Take note of the story and character arcs and how they develop from beginning to end. What does each author do to build tension? What kind of language do they use to convey what they need to? How do they develop the protagonist and antagonist so they mirrors for one another? These are just a few items to consider.
Write the notes down in the margins and highlight away will soon lead you to discover patterns emerging which can be used in your own writing.