Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Close Reading

It's that time of year again, where we've spent a lot of time in class developing characters and plot, writing, talking, reading and analysing (generally focusing on character and plot again), and a modicum of workshopping. Now I want to get serious. I want to get pedantic. I want students to examine sentences, words, figurative language, metaphor, and get down to nuts and bolts on style. To me, this is how you figure out what a writer is doing.
So the Poetry 2 students copped it first. Last year I put the Short Story 2 students through it. They moan, they groan - I don't care. I believe if you really want to improve your writing, you have to get down to the nitty-gritty. You have to take a good example and pull it apart, to see where the joins are, examine word choices, think about why the author chose this word over another, why this sentence is short and that one long, and how all of these things create the work in front of you.
From this, I take students into the same examination of their own writing, word by word, phrase by phrase. It's slow. It's heavy on the brain. And if you do it properly, if you tackle it as a writer wanting to learn the guts of what makes writing work, it's a goldmine.
But always for some, it seems pointless (and if I'm honest, I have to say maybe it's the way I teach it). After teaching for ten years, I have no sympathy. If there's something offered to you that will help you be a better writer, why would you say no? (You can supply your own answer here.)
A little more on The Overlook - review by Simon Clewes in the Age last weekend came to the same conclusion as me. Skimpy book.
Evanovich's latest had me laughing out loud - great antidote to winter chills.
Now I'm reading Ranger's Apprentice, the first in a YA fantasy series. Heard a lot about this and got a copy from the library (spent too many $$ at the bookstore lately). It's got me hooked because of the humour. Could well be the cold here in Melbourne making me yearn for a good, warming laugh.

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