Analyzing What You Read to Improve Your Writing
by J. Anderson Coats
And then I applied them.
My log is a crappy composition book I bought for $0.59 when school supplies were on sale. Keeping a paper log does three things for me:
1) It makes the log easy to maintain; I just keep it with whatever book I’m reading.
2) It allows me to be completely honest in a way I would not feel comfortable with if I were posting my comments online.
And, most importantly:
3) Carefully analyzing and recording exactly what’s going on in another person’s work crystallizes my understanding of that element of craft. Just thinking about reveals or backstory and recognizing their utility is great, but for me, committing the mechanics to print makes it useful. In other words, writing it down makes it stick.
As I read, I note down problematic aspects of a text or elements that I think are particularly well done, sometimes along with a comparison of other books that come to mind. When I finish with the book, I usually write out summaries of what the author did well (in an "Advantages" section) and things that didn't work for me ("Drawbacks"), then my overall impression of the work as a whole and to what sort of reader I might recommend it. ("Someone who loves high-school hierarchy stories" or "Someone who likes snarky heroines.") If a book is particularly awesome, I put a star next to its entry in my log.
How do you read? Are you as careful in your analysis of published work as you are when beta reading for fellow writers?
Research is one of my favorite things!