Like many of you, I feel that for some time now I’ve been reading like a writer. In other words, when I’m reading, I’m also noticing: tense shifts, point of view, use of time, distance between the narrator and the characters, the movement in and out of scenes…

In 1999 I was so amazed by Michael Cunningham‘s The Hours–its structure, its use of repetition–that I reread it in order see what he had done. I circled. I underlined. I used Excel and made a chart. I cited page numbers.

Recently at the Vermont College of Fine Arts, another student suggested I listen to the CD of a lecture given by Douglas Glover last summer on “How to Read Like a Writer.” In that lecture he said that to read like a writer, we should learn how to take a story apart. I thought, right, I know that.

But it wasn’t until a few days after that, when I actually took apart a couple of the Alice Munro stories in her new collection, Too Much Happiness, that I finally GOT how to read like a writer–or how to take reading like a writer to a new level–and how that could help me make choices when I was writing.

So the first time I read, I read for pleasure. I underline passages I like, and I notice what’s working and what’s not. Then the second time I read, I read to answer questions.

Other posts in this series:

Part 1: Reading like a writer

Part 2: Taking it to a new level

Part 3: Questions to ask

Part 4: Reading a story

Part 5: Taking a story apart

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