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The short story writer Raymond Carver taught me how to write. Yes, I took creative writing classes and yes, I even went to grad school for writing. But if I had to pinpoint the one teacher who really taught me the basics of storytelling, it would be Raymond Carver, who died before I turned six years old.

This weekend (in addition to catching up on any assignments you missed during the week, of course!), I want you to take a little time to read a book you love with the intention of learning from it. Find a scene or a description you remember—or even open to a random page—and see what writing lessons you can take away.

Questions you can ask yourself include:

How does the writer use detail?

Is the dialogue naturalistic or stylized?

How does the writer lead the reader into a scene?

How are mood and tone conveyed?

How is information revealed?

Where does the emotion come through?

When are we aware of time passing?

When you’re finished, think about how you can apply what you’ve found to your own novel. Make a few notes in order to not forget.

Tip: If you’re new to reading in this way, or if you find that you enjoy this process and want to learn more about it, a book you might enjoy is Reading Like a Writer by Francine Prose.