August 3, 2010

Questioning the Author

While teaching, I used a wonderful resource (see below) to help students connect with text. Basically, you ask questions about an author's purpose to increase your understanding of story structure.

And it dawned on me recently: what a great way to look at our own writing! We want readers to actively engage with our stories, don't we? So, I took a few of the book's Queries (interesting choice of words, no?) and modified them for writers. Hope you find them useful.

- What's the basic story you're telling? (Think of your pitch here.)

- Is everything in the text relevant to this story? (Don't create drama just for its own sake; if it doesn't further the narrative, out it goes.)

- Do your scenes present POVs the reader can easily follow? (Zoom in and zoom out, as needed.)

- Does the story flow, or is it bogged down in certain areas? (If you stop, your reader will, too. Guaranteed.)

- Are you using age-appropriate language? (Tricky–you don't want to "dumb down" your story.)

- Is the plot clear? (Confusion and ambiguity can kill a reader's enthusiasm for your story.)

- How have you revealed your characters? (Actions vs. description.)

- If you asked readers to explain the meaning of a scene or chapter, or even the entire work, would their responses match your intent? (One of many reasons to be thankful for critique partners.)

What do you think? Did any of these help?


  1. Good list. Recently, I tossed out a bunch of slooow scenes. Sometimes it feels so hard to juggle all those things, but if you can pull it off, magic happens. :)

  2. Excellent, Kathryn, thank you! I'm saving these queries :) to evaluate my soon to be "finished" mss. The longer I write, the more confidence I have in my pacing, dialogue and flow, the less confidence in everything else.

  3. Tricia: Thanks! It does feel like a juggling act sometimes, doesn't it?

    VR: You're welcome! I'll bet your confidence will grow in the areas you feel lacking. Your writing is really strong.

  4. Kathryn,

    Great questions! For me, especially writing for kids, the not dumbing things down is a big one. Kids are so much smarter than a lot us give them credit for. They deserve well written books that don't spoon feed them. Make them think! ;)

    Take care!


  5. Hilary: Exactly. Because I worked with so many struggling readers, I strive to make my stories accessible yet stimulating. It's a challenge!

  6. Great list! I just found your blog and I think it is great.

  7. Catherine: Welcome and thanks! It's always nice to meet another former teacher who writes.

  8. Those are great questions to ask. Definitely a worthwhile exercise for any writer to go through - thanks! :)


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