9 Things To Think About When You Read Like A Writer


This is the best writing advice anyone ever gave me and let’s be honest it’s awesome to be able to curl up on the couch with a good book and call it working. Reading teaches you about writing. Good books give you something to aspire to, bad books teach you what to avoid.

I try to read a book a week for review. (We post our reviews for Writers Write here.) Reading for review is different to reading for fun. It makes me pay attention to things I’d usually overlook because reading like a writer is different to reading like a reader.

When I read for review I take note of the following:

  1. Genre: Is it a genre I enjoy? I don’t think it’s fair to the author if I read a genre I don’t like. I read across many genres so this isn’t the biggest issue. But does it hold true to its promise? Did it entertain me, scare me, or let me fall in love again?
  2. Viewpoint: I prefer books written in the 1st person, but only if the writer can pull it off. A trend at the moment is to have two alternating first person accounts. Very few authors can do this. It annoys me when the two characters sound the same. I do enjoy good 2nd and 3rd person accounts as well.
  3. Characters: Are they well developed? Are they believable?
  4. Dialogue: I adore dialogue. The more the better, but is it well written? Does it convey character and advance the story? I will put a book down if it lacks dialogue.
  5. Setting: How does the author convey this? Does he portray a sense of space by letting his character interact with the setting or does he bore me to death with paragraphs of description?
  6. Description: Coma inducing or a feast for my senses? I hate blocks of description. I prefer it when it is woven into a story.
  7. Pace: Did it start at an incredible pace only to run out at steam in the middle? Did it take forever to get going? Was it too fast overall or too slow?
  8. Plot: Does the story work? Is it believable? Is it good? Was it unexpected or predictable?
  9. Did I like the book or not? I allocate a mark out of 5. (See our scoring criteria.)

Once I have taken all of that into account I write a review of 150 words. I write one paragraph outlining the plot and one paragraph about my opinion. There is no point in writing a 1000-word book review. Be honest, those are the ones you don’t read on Amazon and Goodreads. I don’t necessarily touch on every point but I highlight the parts that impressed or disappointed me.

Book reviews are also something you can mention in a query letter. An editor could read them and will be able to see if you know what you are talking about when it comes to writing. Anyhow, it’s a great exercise. Perhaps you could try writing a review for your own book?

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If you want to learn how to write a book, join our Writers Write course in Johannesburg or sign up for our online course.

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This article has 2 comments

  1. christine

    Thanks for sharing this. I love reading! I have so many plot lines for stories that I gleaned from my readings to twist up and make imho a story. I am in NaNoWriMo this month writing my life story, which isnt easy nor hard. Any advice on that?

  2. Isla Cunningham

    I absolutely love reading as a writer!! But I disagree that, “There is no point in writing a 1000-word book review.” Writing long book reviews is one of my favorite things to do! I love researching the author and the illustrator, climbing inside their minds for a bit, and analyzing their beautiful contributions to each book. Indulging in lengthy book reviews may only serve me as a writer, but that is my goal- to improve my writing. http://islacunninghambooks.blogspot.com/

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