Announcing The Annotated Jane Eyre

Announcing Jane Eyre: The Writer’s Digest Annotated Classic

“Before I die, I’m going to read all the classics.”

That was the resolution I made ten years ago. I started working through my local library’s shelves, alphabetically, looking for any book that fit my (very loose) definition of a classic: a title (or author) I recognized, written prior to 1950. For every “modern” book I read, I also read a classic. I started with Jane Austen’s Emma and, as of this writing, I’ve worked my way into the H’s with Homer’s Iliad, Hemingway’s For Whom the Bell Tolls, and Hilton’s Lost Horizon.

I’m not even sure what prompted this lifelong commitment in the first place (I estimate it will take me until I’m seventy to reach Émile Zola). It just sounded like a good thing to attempt. As both a lover of words and a writer of words, being well read is about more than just bragging rights. It’s about ingesting and learning from the great stories of our world—on a personal level, as well an authorial one.

Looking back over even just the first third of my readerly journey, I am astonished by how much I have learned. Putting aside mere personal taste or a desire for entertainment, in order to pursue worthy authors of both genders, untold nationalities, and countless eras has broadened my personal horizons exponentially. I won’t even mention the fact that doing so has bombarded my little writing brain with masterful story after masterful story.

Or maybe I will mention it.

That, after all, is what brought Jane Eyre: The Writer’s Digest Annotated Classic into my life.

I am absolutely thrilled to be able to announce the first book in this amazing new series from Writer’s Digest Books. When editor Rachel Randall approached me, two summers ago, about working on this project, I was floored. I can’t say I ever thought I’d see my name on a Writer’s Digest book. But even more than that, I was ecstatic.

Write a writing book about the classics? Are you kidding me? Of course, I’m in!

We wanted to take a look at Charlotte Brontë’s amazingly enduring novel and figure out: What has made this story beloved by so many people for so many years? What about the writing made it an instant bestseller in 1847? What is it about the storytelling that keeps this tale of a plain, repressed governess resonating with modern readers around the world? What sorcery did Charlotte Brontë (plain and repressed herself) weave to create the seemingly eternal power of Jane Eyre?

And more importantly, how can authors like you and me learn to cast that same spell in our own stories?

It had been all of ten years since I’d read Brontë’s epic story of star-crossed love, chilling suspense and horror, and breathtaking empowerment, but the story was still fresh in my mind. I pulled out my copy, highlighters and pen and notebook in hand, and started reading. Before I knew it, the paperback was dog-eared and covered in blue, pink, orange, and green highlights.

I expected I’d be able to find much within the book to illustrate important writing techniques (POV, conflict, characters, dialogue, and on and on). And I was right. On practically every page, examples of stellar technique jumped up under my nose.

What I didn’t expect was that plain Jane would revolutionize my own writing.

By the time I was finished annotating the text, I felt like my eyes had been opened to a whole new level of storytelling.

In the past, I had resisted the idea of analyzing favorite stories and movies. What if I took them apart so thoroughly I’d never again be able to look at them with the same sense of wonder? But the marvelous thing about writing this book is that not only did it not destroy my sense of wonder, it only made me love the story that much more.

As writers, we must study our craft. We read how-to books, blogs, and magazines that break down technique and tell us about story theory. And we’re all better off for having read them. But the single best way to study our craft is to read the masters—like Charlotte Brontë. Read them, love them, take them apart, put them back together, and transform your understanding of story forever.

Right now, Jane Eyre: The Writer’s Digest Annotated Classic is scheduled for a late July release (I should have an actual date for you soon). Working on this book has been a true blessing for me. I have learned so much in writing it, and I hope I can share maybe even just a small part of that with all of you. Stay tuned for more info as we get closer to the launch (which will be my biggest yet, with some absolutely crazy prizes!), and thanks, as always, for letting me walk with this writing road with the some of the coolest Wordplayers I know!

Announcing The Annotated Jane Eyre

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About K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland

K.M. Weiland is the award-winning and internationally-published author of the acclaimed writing guides Outlining Your Novel, Structuring Your Novel, and Creating Character Arcs. A native of western Nebraska, she writes historical and fantasy novels and mentors authors on her award-winning website Helping Writers Become Authors.


  1. Great. Now you’re making me want to go read more classics (as though I have the time!) 😉

    Seriously, I can’t watch movies and TV the same way after taking a Film Theory class in college. Same principle. I notice camera angles, what they do with how they cut the show, background music. Combine that with my predilection for mysteries and, given half-a-chance, I pick apart movies and TV shows. I try to put a pause on this aspect, but when it’s a poorly done show, it comes out.

    • K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland says

      I know some writers dislike the fact that their logical (critical) brains kick in when reading or movie watching. But I love it. Identifying successful (and even unsuccessful) storytelling techniques makes story reading feel even more interactive – like a treasure hunt!

  2. According to the Writer’s Digest Shop, the book will be available on June 26! I’ve already ordered my copy and looking forward to that “whole new level of storytelling.” Thanks for all the awesome work you do for us that are just beginning the journey.


    You’ll Love This Book If:

    – You’re interested in learning the craft and techniques used by the author
    – You’re interested in understanding plot, character, setting, voice, style, and dialogue of a classic novel
    – You love Jane Eyre and would like the opportunity to go behind the scenes

    About the Book:

    Jane Eyre, first published in 1847, has persisted as a classic, beloved romance and remains extremely popular among modern readers. While other annotated versions of this novel do already exist, no annotated version to date explores the techniques and craft used by the author. Best-selling writing instructor and author K.M. Weiland addresses issues of plot, character, setting, voice, style, dialogue and other craft-related topics. K.M. Weiland is a lifelong fan of history and the power of the written word. She mentors other authors and shares the ups and downs of the writing life-sharing tiny ideas that bloom into unexpected treasures.

    This annotated classic also includes a workbook filled with exercises and prompts for aspiring writers to apply their newfound knowledge. Jane Eyre is a novel that transcends time. With elements of social criticism, morality, sexuality, and spiritual sensibility, Jane Eyre was a novel ahead of its time -a novel to be studied and understood at great depths. Join K.M. Weiland to dive in and explore!

  3. All together now: “Good Morning, Ms. Weiland!”

  4. This is so cool! And you’re style of explaining the finer points of craft is easy to read and understand. Don’t be surprised if a college creative writing class or two pick this up as a text. You encouarged me to take a recent best-seller (The Fault in our Stars) and do a simple plot point evaluation. It’s an eye-openener. You’re gonna have to start a discussion board just so we can have our own online discussion about this one!

    • K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland says

      I love that you’re deconstructing Fault in Our Stars. It’s a fascinating exercise to try to get into another author’s head.

  5. thomas h cullen says

    Emotional truth. This in the end was the force I decided to purely inform my narration of the Representative – simply what my character’s emotional point of view is.

    That, and the deeply ingrained understanding of storytelling structure. (That’s me remembering Katie.)

    This is precisely however why The Representative’s absurdly short; it’s only comprised of what’s needed to be said.

    Which in turn was why I was able always to predict my never getting an agent – a reassuring truth or not, it’s by and large just quantity, and not quality that matters.

    Good luck with the project!

    • K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland says

      One of the most interesting things for me, in analyzing this book, was discovering how spot-on Bronte’s structure was, even in an era that didn’t widely teach such concepts.

      • thomas h cullen says

        Her circumstances – her day-by-day living routine, contrasting with most people of her time, was such that she could learn all whatever needed.

        I’m the exact antithesis of someone like Bronte.

  6. Since I absolutely love Jane Eyre–and writing–and your “craft of writing insights” I’m super excited and can’t wait for the release date on this! 🙂

  7. Susi Franco says

    Your book and post are so amazingly timely !! It’s a crazy coincidence, I am just now re-reading “Jane Eyre”, it’s the last thing I do each night before going to bed. So many intricacies, so many lessons to pay attention to in Bronte’s timeless work. Like yourself, I am re-reading “the canon”…the last time I did it was 14 years ago after I became totally disabled from work, was living with intense chronic pain and desperately needed to re-direct my brain; once again in my life, books became my dearest friends. This time I’m reading not for distraction from something else but for instruction, diving for pearls I may use in my own modest efforts as a writer. It astounds me how my own POV alters the context of what I read. 🙂 I very much look forward to your series for “Writer’s Digest”; I keep all my old issues in special magazine files. 🙂 heartiest CONGRATS to you; we all benefit from your success~ Best Regards, Susi

    • K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland says

      Whenever I read, I always have my eyes open for lessons I can learn. But there’s a *ton* to be said for rereading specifically for the purpose of learning. Once we have a handle on how the story plays out, we’re better primed to understand the techniques the author has used behind the scenes.

      And just to be clear: I’ve only written this first book in the series. The follow-up books (starting with Mort Castle’s take on Dracula) will be annotated by various other authors.

  8. I recently jumped into read all the classics bandwagon. The project you mention sounds awesome, I can’t wait!

  9. AHHHH I’m so excited to read it!! Jane Eyre is one of my favorite classics.

    A strange thing I started doing is rearranging my book collection so that it’s by the year the book was first published, so it’s kinda almost like a timeline. And it’s interesting to find out that some books are older than you thought they were. (The Boxcar Children, for example, first came out in the twenties) Even though this makes things look a big unorganized, I kinda like it.

    • K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland says

      That’s actually a totally awesome idea. I’m tempted to rearrange my bookshelf that way.

  10. I’ll be getting this for our writing group. Just the thing we need to get us ready for this year’s NaNo and novel prep training.

    Your work is invaluable. Thank you and Congratulations again on the IPPY and the NIEA!

    • K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland says

      Thanks, Sherry! I do think this would be a great book for a group study. So many things to discuss, and I’m sure you can all dig out even more nuggets than the ones I’ve come up with.

  11. Katie, this is very cool. I look forward to reading this first one and then all of the future ones.

    I too made a commitment re: reading the classics a few years ago. It was simply to read at least 1 per year and I’ve done okay with that “easy” target for the past few years. I’ve spent time with some of the American modern classics, Gatsby, etc as I avoided a lot of American literature early in life tending to stick with the Brits or Europeans. In saying that I love Henry James and in my university days read some of Nabokov’s works. Even though he’s Russian I’ve always thought American treated him as an adopted son of sorts.

    Can’t wait to read this series and to incorporate some of those insights into my writing.

    And wow, Writers Digest & KM Weiland – kinda has a nice ring to it.



  12. So thrilled for you! JE is one of my favs. Can’t wait to read your insights!

  13. I think you’ve inspired me to add more classics to my own tbr lists.

    • K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland says

      Yay! It’s a marvelous journey to undertake.

      • Just finished The Count of Monte Cristo… What an emotional ride! Dumas is a master, no doubt about it. Anyone who hasn’t read it needs to grab a copy from your local library.

  14. I’m on holiday in Bronte country (Yorkshire) at the moment!
    I have a question: Does your book include the full text of the book or would one have to buy both?

    • K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland says

      How awesome! And, yes, this will be the complete text of the original book, along with my annotations.

  15. As both a fan of Jane Eyre and your writing on plot structure, this is fantastic news! I believe this will demand I reread Jane Eyre again…and maybe again 🙂

    I’m curious what you see as the differences, if any, between the structure of classics like Jane Eyre and our modern novels. I’m in both contemporary and classic book clubs at the moment, and I have to admit that the classics often don’t hook me as a reader–they start out with a lot of narrative, for instance, vs. action as contemporary writers are encouraged to do. I’m thinking in particular of Persuasion here, which is my favorite Austen and one of my favorite books, which starts out a bit slow, with a long description of the father, before we even get to the heroine or hero of the story. (After that, it’s fantastic, but if I didn’t already know that going on I might have DNF’d it.)

    • K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland says

      As a matter of fact, one of things I was most fascinated to discover in annotating Jane Eyre was how perfectly the book is structured. It’s true that classic novels are often “slower” than modern novels, but this isn’t necessarily (in fact, rarely) an indication of poor structure. It’s just that the “hook” has become a highly refined artform in the intervening centuries.

  16. Concerning the book, is the emphasis on writing with Jane Eyre as the guide, or could this be a gift for a non-writer. I’m thinking about it as a graduation present for someone who loves the novel but I don’t see becoming a writer any time soon.

    • K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland says

      I think it would be interesting to anyone who’s interested in seeing how stories tick.

  17. OH, I am SO in!! I can’t wait to read this. I’ve been reading a lot of books and analyzing story structure. This will be very helpful.

    • K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland says

      Thanks, Laurie! I hope you enjoy reading it as much as I enjoyed writing it.

      • thomas h cullen says

        Katie, if I promise to purchase this release, and to indulge properly all of what it is you’ve created out of it, would you be willing to do the same for me?

        To my current knowledge (I’ve still to check again) I’m still waiting for The Representative’s just first purchase.

        It’s a worldwide phenomenon; story, story-world, story-form (or literary form) – they’re all sincerely unprecedented types of each, I promise!

        • I wish you all the best with your book, but I don’t generally trade purchases or reviews. If you’re interested in learning more about marketing your book, I highly recommend checking out The Creative Penn.

          • thomas h cullen says

            I’ll perhaps check that out – thanks for offering me that.

            Recently, I asked an agent who’d rejected me (a Mrs Beth Campbell – of BookEnds?) – had she known of the phrase ‘there’s something in it for everyone’, following up then with this pun on the term – ‘…….everything, that’s in The Representative is for everyone’.

            That nails it Katie! That’s the exact way, to put The Representative to any:

            Literally every line; literally, every plot point, every chosen bit of language and the entirety of the narrative’s trajectory is to be embraced by any human being.

            It truly has no precedence!

  18. One could also set a goal to read all the Nobel prize-winning books, or all the Pulitzer Prize-winning books.

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