HOW TO READ LIKE A PRO
Rosemary wrote: "Thank you so much for sharing what you learn and know with your fellow writers :) I read each post and learn a bit more each time! I have a request for you if you don't mind...can I ask your process for reading a story to learn craft from it? You've mentioned writing down scenes, plot points, etc. Are there any guidelines, or an order you recommend? Thanks Ksenia!!!"
I'll share all I know, Rosemary! Not my statement, by the way, about reading like a pro. It was my writing mentor who said it. He saw my notebook (pictured above) and said, "Hey, you read like a pro!" Do I? Dunno. So blame my mentor for this gracious epithet. It ain't mine. Anyway. Back to your request.
It all started because I got pissed at myself for not developing as a writer faster and started looking for ways to improve. One of those was also pointed out by my mentor. "You're going to keep floundering around, or do you actually want to learn how to become a commercial writer?" Yes, I agreed, enough floundering. So I started learning plotting, and that led to trying to figure out how others plotted, and that led to dissecting books as I read them. How does the story open? Why? What's the inciting incident? The crisis? The climax? How many scenes are there? How are they spaced? How many pages? Does the crisis fall square in the middle? No? Why? What are the patterns? And so on.
After a few tries I realized I couldn't do it without some kind of note-taking, so I got myself a little graph-paper Moleskine notebook that I can take with me (as I always read when I'm on the go) and started devising a system for tracking plot twists and whatever else I saw while I read.
Here is how I do it.