Five Tips For Reading Like A Writer

Five Tips For Reading Like A Writer

Tuesday, September 12th, 2017 - Blog, Reading, Tip

Like many of you, I read compulsively. I love books, paper books, ebooks, picture books, any books. I read a lot for pleasure. But I also read like a writer. This means that I notice things that other authors are doing so that I can improve my own writing.

Every book is full of possible lessons for writers. Each time I learn something new from someone else on the page, I feel my storytelling possibilities growing.

 

Here are five useful tips for reading like a writer yourself.

 

  • Make notes and highlights. Some eReaders have seriously useful highlight and clipping capabilities. Use these when an author does something dazzling. Otherwise, good old pen and paper are just fine.
  • Read certain paragraphs aloud. When you hear how your favourite author uses language it’ll help you transform your own writing.
  • Notice technical skills on the page. If you don’t know how to punctuate speech, or if you struggle with how to use flashbacks, or if you wonder about sentence length or how to end chapters, take novels you adore and see how those authors managed these aspects of their writing. To paraphrase Stephen King, add to your writer toolbox. Think of each skill you pick up as another tool in your writing toolbox and notice tools that you’re missing. For example, it took me years to try writing in third person. Every time I see another writer doing it well, I make notes and appreciate their skill. Another technical aspect I note is good dialogue – when I see an author using great dialogue, believe me, I make notes.
  • Pay attention to writing that doesn’t work for you. It sounds contrary, but actually it’s really helpful for you to notice what type of writing fails and why. What is the author doing that makes the story clunky or makes the dialogue flat? You can learn lots from what is unsuccessful. Also, with writing that doesn’t work for you but that everybody else just LOVES, try to figure out why. Make notes, read it aloud, think about how each sentence is formed and what the author is trying to achieve.
  • Finally, and maybe this should have been first: read widely. Read lots of things you never normally read – broaden out to sci-fi, romance, poetry, plays, shampoo bottles, everything. Notice how every author uses words, not just authors you go back to time and again. In this way, you’ll broaden your own writing capabilities.

Reading like a writer helps me appreciate the written word – but I also remind myself to read for pleasure too. If I’m getting too writerly and forgetting the fun, I take a breath, turn the page of another book, and dive in. Now, where did I put my book?

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Learning the write way

Sunday, July 2nd, 2017 - Blog

Award-winning author Alice Kuipers to be one of the presenters at the Festival of Words

By Lisa Goudy, Moose Jaw Times Herald

Author Alice Kuipers had to learn the hard way how to deal with rejection.

In fact, she has accumulated many rejection letters over the years.

“If I could talk to my teen self and say, ‘You know what? This is actually going to be something you’re doing. You’re going to be able to make your living as a writer,’ I would give myself a little hint: It’s hard work in terms of there’s a lot of rejection,” she said.

A decade after starting to write seriously, she had her first book published in 2007 with her young adult (YA) novel, Life on the Refrigerator Door. Since then, the award-winning author has published four other YA novels, two picture books and she has a chapter book set for release next year.

“Sometimes people don’t like what you do. People aren’t always interested in what you’re doing. Letting go of all of that and just doing it is easy for me because I just love it,” said Kuipers. “I love writing, I love thinking about books, I love reading books, I love talking about writing and I feel really, really lucky to be

This summer, she’s set to come to Moose Jaw as one of 25 featured presenters for the 21st annual Saskatchewan Festival of Words. It will mark her second time at the festival.

“I really love the city. I really love the festival and talking about books and hanging out with other authors and meeting people who love to read books as much as I do. So I’m pretty excited,” she said.

“It’s set up in a really easygoing way yet the quality of the presentations are high and the quality of the work of the other writers is extremely high. So it’s just a really fun way to settle down and think about books as the summer’s really gearing up.”

Kuipers has some new reading material out herself. Her latest book, YA novel Me (and) Me was released earlier this year. The novel follows 17-year-old Lark who goes canoeing on a lake with her boyfriend. While there, a little girl Lark used to babysit is drowning in the nearby reeds. Lark and her boyfriend dive in to go save her, but her boyfriend hits his head on a rock in the water. With the little girl and her boyfriend drowning and with no time to save both, Lark must choose which one to save. When she does, her world splits into two distinct lives and she must live with the consequences of both choices. Lark then is faced with a choice: Which life is the right one?

Kuipers said some ideas for that book actually started swimming in her mind 20 years ago, but at the time, she didn’t know how to write it. So she shelved the idea and revisited it a few years ago when suddenly the character of Lark came into her mind.

“I realized it was a book about a young woman who has to make a choice and she doesn’t know how to and because she doesn’t know how to, she splits into two lives,” she said. “Well it’s a complicated story to write so I had to spend years, really, figuring out the best way to tell it, but for me, that figuring out is really interesting. That moving around of sentences, that thinking about how to make a story come alive on a page, that really thrills me.”

The 2017 Saskatchewan Festival of Words will take place from July 13 to 16 at various locations in the city – Common Café and Bakery, Mosaic Place, the Moose Jaw Public Library, St. Andrew’s Church and the Moose Jaw Cultural Centre.

Kuipers to help with Sage Hill Teen Writing Experience in Moose Jaw

In the week leading up to the Festival of Words, teenagers will have a chance to participate in a five-day creative writing workshop with a professional author through Sage Hill Writing.

Sage Hill, a non-profit organization, will offer a free workshop this year in Moose Jaw, Regina, Swift Current, Prince Albert and Saskatoon to encourage the “growth and development of young writers who want to connect with the writing community and learn about writing as a craft and a profession,” said a release. It is open to teens between the ages of 14 and 18.

Moose Jaw’s dates are set for July 10 to 14 at the Moose Jaw Public Library. The instructor this year is Katherine Lawrence and Alice Kuipers is the guest author.

Kuipers has taught the workshop three times in Saskatoon, however this will be the first time she’s been involved in the Sage Hill Teen Writing Experience in Moose Jaw.

“I am excited to see what she wants me to do with the teenagers. She’s mentioned she’d like me to focus on thinking about language and how we use it. It’s obviously an interest of hers, as a poet,” she said. “I’m looking forward to meeting teen writers. That’s one of my favourite things to do.”

Kuipers said she wanted to write as a teenager.

“I didn’t even really know where to start. So these teenagers are way ahead of where I was. They’re meeting writers. They’re writing. They’re not just spending their summer letting it drift by. They’re getting their words on their page,” she said. “I’m excited to connect with teenagers who love words as much as I do.”

For more on this story, see the July 5, 2017 print or online edition of the Moose Jaw Times-Herald.

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An Editing Checklist

Tuesday, May 2nd, 2017 - Blog, Places for writers, Thinking

This is the editing checklist that I’ve been using for my talks at Literacy for Life this week. I took it from a website years ago and have used it when I edit my work, but sadly I can’t remember the original source. I’ve cut it to make it easier for me to remember the steps and it definitely makes my work stronger when I use it.

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©2017 Alice Kuipers | Bestselling YA and Picture Book Author. Design by Janine Stoll Media.
Illustration by Julie Larocque.