As my editing clients could tell you, I often suggest reading mentor texts — recently published books by established writers that can show how others have handled the issues the client is trying to bring to life in his or her manuscript.
Seeing how well-established writers deal with character development, or the building blocks of plot, or story arc, or the use of antagonists and obstacles to the protagonists, can help a new writer think about how they can deal with those same challenges in their own writing.
Reading and analyzing such books can help a writer see what works and what doesn’t in order to hone his or her own writing skills. Not that I’m advocating copying another writer, but there is much to learn from other writers, and this is one way to do it.
Author/educator Marcie Flinchum Atkins talks about mentor texts a lot. She is a firm believer in their worth. Here’s a great guest post on her blog that shows how to use mentor texts.
And here is a link that will get you to all Marcie’s posts on the subject.
Author Carrie Charley Brown has a wonderful series of posts on her blog about mentor texts. Although her focus is picture books, her ideas can be used for any form of writing. Here’s a link to all her posts about mentor texts.
If you write picture books, I would encourage you to participate in ReFoReMo — Reading for Research Month — in March. This is an entire month devoted to working with mentor texts, with regular blog posts such as those I’ve linked to above. The ReFoReMo website can be found here. Watch for news about the 2017 ReFoReMo, and follow the blog in the meantime.
In coming months, on the second Friday, I’ll be posting about what to look for in choosing mentor texts, and how to get the most out of the reading process. I hope you’ll join me for those posts.