Monday, April 6, 2015

Read To Learn

The best writers are also enthusiastic readers. It’s an old adage, but a true one. It’s important to remember, however, that while you read for pleasure, you should also read to learn.

There are so MANY things you can learn that will improve your writing each time you read a book. Pay attention to pace, conflict, character development, dialogue. All the little nuances that bring a story to life. Even if you’re not enjoying a book - that can be just as helpful. What is the author doing that’s turned you off? How would you improve the narrative?

As you read, ask yourself questions: how different would this book be if it was in a different point-of-view? What if the point-of-view character was different? What do you love about the book? Write down phrases and descriptions that sing to you. What is it about them that makes you sit up and pay attention?

If possible, keep a reading log and jot down notes about the books you read. What worked, what didn’t? Make a shelf of your favorite books and when you’re stuck in your own writing, take one of those books down and see how that author approached the same problem. Struggling with your opening? Study the openings of several books you love and see if it sparks any ideas.

You don’t have to analyze every book you read, but if something occurs to you mid-story, jot it down. I often read a book two or three times. The first time is for pure pleasure, falling into the words and reveling in them. The second time is with an eye to structure, pace, and all the little tools we use as writers. I want to know how authors I admire bring a story to life so that eventually I can make my own writing just as strong.

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