If you love to write, you probably love to read as well.
Maybe you were one of those kids who stayed up past bedtime, huddled under the sheets with a book and a flashlight.
Or maybe you read a book as an adult that affected you so deeply, it altered your life and made you want to write.
I’m guessing you have at least one book that you’ve read and re-read so many times, you can repeat entire passages.
You know the rhythm of the writer’s voice, her particular style.
Maybe you mimic her short, staccato sentences or his long melodic lines.
But what binds the book together? What makes the story sing?
You know the answer: STRUCTURE.
At first glance, you can see the book has sections or chapters, whether they or long or short, or use white spaces to create moments of pause.
These are the nuts and bolts.
But can you do deeper and see how a particular form serves a story or idea?
And how do you find a structure that’s right for you and the book that’s burning inside you?
Here’s what I do and teach my students as well:
You pick up the book that made you want to write, or the one you wish you had written, or the one you loved as a kid, and you read it again.
But this time you take notes.
You slow down.
You write down a summary of what’s in each chapter or section.
It takes time, but you start to notice things, like where the author begins and ends their chapters or how they braid together different stories until they comes together in the middle or at the end.
It’s like walking down a street you’ve only driven on and you notice that between the corner market and the drugstore, lies a small alleyway where someone has forged a footpath.
When you’re finished, you not only see the structure better, you have digested it.
It lives inside you now, perhaps waiting for to reveal itself as the form for a future project.
Or it gives you an idea for a similar structure for the book you’re trying to write now.
Either way, it’s yours by virtue of your deep attention.
Go to your shelf right now and pick out a book that you love and/or that you want to emulate.
Take your time reading and taking notes and get back to me when you have your first “aha.”