I had intended to bring you the next in my favorite craft books series today, but I'm in the middle of an interstate move and all my books are packed away in boxes awaiting the moving men.
Instead of doing a repost, I decided I wanted to focus on craft books in a different way.
The best and most frequently given advice is if you want to be a writer, you must read. Read the kinds of books you want to write, read research books, read the kinds of books you don't want to write because they will help stretch your mind.
One way to use books you love as "craft books" is to deconstruct them. I recently heard someone give advice about this as if it was some big secret. Really? I've been doing it for ages as have many other authors I know. If you're not familiar with the idea, it's basically figuring out why you love the books you love so that you can learn to replicate the result in your own work.
(NOTE: I'm not talking about copying work. I'm talking about studying it.)
I really do believe that reading is the best training for writing, because avid readers absorb style details without even being aware they're doing so. They develop a sense for how the story should unfold, for what makes a good story.
You can set about this "research" in many ways. Maybe you just want to reflect on what it is about a certain book that makes you love it. Maybe it's the characterization. Maybe it's the clever plot twists the author is known for. Maybe it's the language. You're just getting a general sense. That's an informal use.
But you can also take a more formal approach to breaking a book down to study the structure. This is particularly helpful if you're trying to break into a line. Take Love Inspired or Love Inspired Suspense, for example. When I was first trying to sell to LIS, I took books by some of their best-selling authors and took notes scene by scene to see what I needed to do. How is the pacing handled? How do the hero and heroine's points of view alternate? When do they meet, have conflict, kiss? When (with regards to chapters) does the black moment occur? How many chapters? How many scenes per chapter? How long is each chapter? And so on....
On the flip side, there is also value in deconstructing books you disliked. Why did you dislike it? Were the characters unlikable? Was the setting or plot off? Was it the pacing or the dialogue? All of these questions can give you valuable insight into your own work.
So let's talk. Have you ever deconstructed a book to see how it works? Did it help you?
I'd also love to hear any good moving stories! Friends keep telling me there's a book in this experience!