Reading Like a Writer Masterclass
Learning how to read like a writer engages many different topics. In addition to a deep reading of the text, external reviews, interviews, knowledge of societal norms and current trends are also important when attempt to internalize literature. Nothing is out of bounds. All of these topics come to play in the techniques of Literary Forensics, because the novel being read is only one set of data among all the information at readers’ disposal.
During this master class we will read examples from multiple contemporary novels (all published since 2017) and use them to exemplify the major techniques contained within Literary Forensics—my methodology of reading like a writer for the purpose of extracting found techniques and applying them to our own writing.
The first 45 minutes will focus on the first of the four parts of Literary Forensics: What I Bring. Through introductions and questions about the participants’ backgrounds, I will weave in literary theory-based discussions about a reader’s point of view, bias, different reading habits, choosing what to read, the participants’ work in progress and a bit about current societal and publishing norms.
The next 45 minutes will focus on part two of four: the emotional feedback we experience upon encountering various texts. These reactions often mark the very passages that merit further study. We will discuss various reactions to writing and what they infer about the underlying text: boredom, anger, breaking the flow state, confusion, figuring out the plot ahead of the author, and what to do when you enter the flow state and don’t stop to notice superior writing.
The next 90 minutes will focus on part three of four: the mechanical and structural elements we discover in a novel. These include: language and grammar, context within scene, point of view, characterization and character development, pacing, plot structure, topic layering and symbolism, and the impact of the novel as a whole.
The final hour will cover the final section of Literary Forensics: those tools available to us outside the printed text. They include an overview of today’s publishing industry, other narrative forms, academic theories, and digital humanities.
Reading as a Writer:
Intimacies by Katie Kitamura
It is a truth universally acknowledged that a writer needs to read—and read a lot—to hone their craft. And if you don’t recognize the first eight words of the previous sentence, you probably need to read more!
But it’s not just what we read or how many books we read, but HOW we read that matters most. The goal of this four-week course for fiction writers is to change the way we read forever. It’s essential for us to read every book like a writer: to question, to probe, to investigate. Once we learn how to do this we can treat all books like textbooks on writing, taught to you by your favorite authors.
Over four weeks, we’ll take a deep dive into a single novel, reading and re-reading it until we understand how it was constructed. We’ll mine the text for techniques that we can then apply to our own writing.
Our book is Intimacies, by Katie Kitamura. You’ll need to purchase the novel and bring it to our meetings, and although it is not necessary to read the entire novel before the first meeting, you will need to read it before our second.
- Week 1: An overview of Literary Analysis, the techniques for writerly reading
- Week 2: The book as a whole, including: motivation for writing and publishing, main themes, plotlines, structure, genre, marketing
- Week 3: Specific techniques: setting, scene mechanics, tense, voice, verbiage, symbolism, metaphor, sentiment coloring
- Week 4: The re-read: You present your findings and identify the techniques you plan to use (or avoid!) in your own writing.
Intimacies by Katie Kitamura