This post was originally published at Novelicious.com and is now at WritingTipsOasis.com. WritingTipsOasis.com acquired Novelicious.com in June 2022.
When I was a museum curator, I was the worst person to go to a museum exhibition with. I’d spend the entire time looking at how the objects were mounted, staring at graphic techniques and looking up at the ceiling to see what sort of lights were used. In other words, I got my jollies from deconstructing how they put it together, with the hope of borrowing the best ideas for my own museum work. Now that I’m a full time writer, I’ve started to notice that I’m doing it whilst reading.
I read a lot of women’s fiction. I still review books and I firmly believe that reading widely makes you a better writer. But lately I’ve found myself re-reading a paragraph to see how it was constructed grammatically. That’s right people: I’ve started making reading boring.
For those of you that have been regular readers of my column over the years, or for those unfortunate readers who read the first edition of my ebook Millie, then you’ll know I’ve struggled with my grammar. Which makes me really intrigued at how authors construct their sentences.
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And I don’t stop with the grammar. I don’t quite go into analysis that perhaps I would have done in English literature classes, but I start to pick the books apart to understand how the author put it together.
I’m fascinated with whose perspectives books are written in, and whether it’s from the same person’s all the way through. I’ve noticed that I’m like a hawk spotting shifts in whose perspective the book is written from. I often re-read transitions of perspective to see how jarring it is for readers, and to see if it works.
I also look at whether the book is written in the first or third person, and just how this is done. My first draft of ‘Don’t Tell the Groom’ was written in the first person, but in the past tense and it just felt wrong. I ended up re-reading a Sophie Kinsella book to see how she wrote in the first person, present tense, and I decided that that’s just what I needed to do.
I recently read ‘The Love Book’ by Fiona O’Brien, which had three main characters. Each character was written from different perspectives (two in the first person, and one in the third person). The way that the character was written in the third person was also really interesting, as it seemed like it was being narrated from someone watching the scene, rather than simply describing it. If you ever want to read a book that makes you think about who’s telling the story, then I highly recommend it.
I also love looking at quirky narrative styles, like in Marian Keyes’ The Brightest Star in the Sky, which is narrated from an out-of-this-world being. Also, Polly Williams’ the Angel at no.33 (also published as The Afterwife) is a great example of a ghost narrating the story. Sam Binnie’s The Wedding Diaries and The Baby Diaries are written in a diary format. It takes a while to get used to how the dialogue is written, but once you get used to it, it seems to work.
I try and get lost in a book and enjoy the story, but I can’t always turn off the analysis. Do other writers find they analyse too much? Will I ever just be able to read a book without overthinking about it?