Mission: Annoy Everyone By Reading Like a Writer

imagePeople who read like writers add layers of complexity to their understanding of written work.  We reverse engineer novels, trying to figure out exactly how an author put it all together.  This is in addition to normal regiment of deconstruction we usually apply to books, picking out theme, structure, figurative language, characterization, conflict, etc.

Why do we do it?  It’s…well, it’s fun!  Narratives are like abstract puzzles.  In my mind, they’re meant to be taken apart and their pieces examined to see how they both echo and add up to the larger whole.

I wonder about the process of a writer. How did this masterpiece (or pile of mush) I’m reading come to be? How can studying the choices the writer made help me improve my own writing?

When you read like a writer, you annoy the people around you by over-analyzing everything.  This is part of the fun…and boy am I going to have a lot of fun with you.

So here I present a new mission I’m adding to my blog: to deconstruct good YA paranormal books, focusing on what writers can learn from them.

My job and hobby make it difficult to find time to read, but I aim to get in as many quality books as I can.  Now, I need your help!

Have you read any YA paranormal books (preferably romance) that will blow my mind and keep me up all night thinking?  I’m looking for books that are well-written exemplars for writers to use as a model for their own craft.

Hit me with some good books!

Michelle Joyce Bond


21 thoughts on “Mission: Annoy Everyone By Reading Like a Writer

  1. Unfortunately, I don’t have any YA books off the top of my head – but I love this idea and am looking forward to your future dissection of novels. I do that all the time after reading a book, and even find myself dissecting a book while I’m in the thick of it – wondering where the story line would go if the character did “x” instead of “y.” 🙂

  2. I don’t read YA much, but sounds like a great plan. I often fight to turn off my internal editor because I want to read for enjoyment. But if it’s a particularly good book (or a bad one), I’ll often shift to writer mode to study what the author did (or didn’t) do.

  3. Kendra Highley’s “Matt Archer: Monster Hunter” series. It’s up to four books (and a novella) now, and I am very impressed with her plotting, particularly the way that the threats have been escalating to keep pace with the hero’s development–as he gets stronger, the monsters get stronger, so that he is always just a little bit outmatched.

  4. If you are looking for paranormal romance, I can only suggest/recommend one series that I am currently reading. The House of Crimson and Clover series by Sarah Cradit. The first book, “St. Charles at Dusk” is perma free on Amazon and sets up the series as a prequel. It primarily focuses on the romance. I thoroughly enjoyed this book. Oz and Adrienne are childhood friends in this coming of age story that draws the two powerful families together. There is a short novella, “Anne”, that follows and introduces the paranormal element. Book one of the series, “The Storm and the Darkness”, is where things really take off. There is a novella behind that, and then “The Illusions of Eventide”, followed by another novella. I don’t know if this is YA by definition. Anything younger than thirty is YA to me. It is NOT teen fiction. Anne Rice’s assistant, Becket, has become a good friend of Sarah’s and they do promos together of his vampire novel and her paranormal romance. Her work is very professionally prepared. There is alternating POV between Oz and Adrienne, which is well marked, and the use of analepsis (flashbacks) which create an ebb and flow of information for the reader.

  5. The current YA book series I’m reading is The Chronicles of Nick by Sherrilyn Kenyon. They have four out right now with the 5th coming out April 1. Its pretty awesome so far, she also writes adult books with some of the same characters.

  6. I like this idea! Looking forward to your deconstructions.

    I find that reading like a writer helps me decide much more quickly if a book is written well or not – but that doesn’t mean I stop enjoying it. Sometimes I just have to say, “screw it, I am going to read terrible literature today and have a great time!” Especially when I’m reading YA and Children’s books, which is what I am writing at the moment, I consider every hour spent reading well worth it. “Counts as research!” is my constant justification to myself when I choose to stay home and read a half-decent book instead of being social. But it’s true; you’ve got to be able to recognize what other writers are doing that works for you and what they do which puts you off a book, to avoid making the same mistakes yourself.

    I just finished reading Chime by Franny Billingsley which blew my own mind. It’s YA paranormal, but the romance is understated, much to my happiness as I actually dislike most romantic subplots. The atmosphere and tone were just mesmerizing, and the narrative voice really impressed me. I had not expected to like it as much as I did. I’d recommend it for analyzation, but I’m not sure there are enough faults to find…

    1. I’m actually into understated romance right now. The best romance, in my opinion, serves to move the plot and develop characters…but isn’t an end unto itself. 🙂 Thanks for the recommendation!

  7. Hi, I’m an author of a paranormal book called, The Dead Game. It has mystery and romance. It is more of a New Adult book since the main characters are in their twenties. If you’re interested in reading my book, I can send you a copy.

    1. That’s incredibly nice of you. 🙂 You could definitely send it–it just might take me a little while longer to read it since I listen to most of my books during my commute, but I can read a PDF or Kindle book on my ipad. I’m curious since your characters are a little older. Mine are usually 18 and up to their early 20s. I’m just naturally drawn to writing in that age range. How about you?

  8. I think I may have to try to be more analytical of books when I finish with them. I have read a few recently that just haven’t done it for me. They were lacking, and now I find myself wanting to know.. Why and how?

    One possible theory is that none of them have given me the same “Wow!”, “Wtf?!”, “Seriously?!”, “Ok?”, “Oh my gosh..” factor that “The Maze Runner” trilogy by James Dashner did for me. Could it be possible that I am subconsciously comparing new books to the great books I’ve read? If that’s the case then I’m certainly not giving them a fair chance.

    So my suggested read for you is “The Maze Runner” trilogy if you haven’t read them yet. They’re a-m-a-z-i-n-g and mind blowing, in my opinion. It has a touch of romance, no worries. 😉

    – Britney

    1. Alright–just read the synopsis of The Maze Runner on Goodreads. Soooo going to read that–thank you! If you can, take some classes on writing or literature (that is–if you haven’t already!). The world begins to look a lot different. 🙂

      1. You won’t be disappointed, trust me! It was actually my first sci-fi dystopian book and not nearly my last. After that trilogy, I was beating myself up for never having read sci-fi before. It’s easily one of my favorite series. ❤ — I haven't taken classes, but I'll keep it in mind. I've always loved literature and writing.

        – Britney

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