Have you ever asked, “How can I be a better writer?”
Has anyone ever answered, “Read”?
That probably wasn’t the advice you were looking for. Generally, people want a nice checklist to complete and then have an exceptionally better product once they’re finished. They shrug off the reading advice because they want to write, not read. But that advice you ignored may be just what you need.
1) Improve your vocabulary
It may not seem like it, but you’re constantly increasing your vocabulary with everything you read. The greater your vocabulary, the greater your grasp on the English language will be, allowing you to more effectively convey feelings, settings, ect, through your writing.
I don’t mean your manuscripts have to be riddled with big words that the majority of your readers will have to pull out a dictionary to understand in the first place, but there’s a huge difference in knowing just the right word to describe something and knowing almost the right word. And no, a thesaurus does not solve that problem.
If I didn’t read so much, I imagine my vocabulary would be depressingly small. When I look back at my drafts from years ago and compare them to my more recent works, the improved quality just from the vocabulary alone is incredible.
Fun fact: I learned the word “muddled” from reading Twilight when I was twelve. 😉
2) Familiarize yourself with successful (and unsuccessful) executions of story structure and pacing
Now, I’m not a very formulaic person. I know there are certain structures your story is supposed to follow, and how to outline it as such; I just find I have more success when I allow my story to have a natural progression instead of trying to cram it into predetermined boxes. However, structure and pacing are still very important in my life, even if I’m not an outliner.
Structure and pacing are some of the first things I look for while revising. And if you don’t know what to look for, this step could be very difficult for you. While reading, study the story of both books you enjoyed and books you didn’t. Why did that story hold your attention so well? Why didn’t the other? In my experience, you learn just as much from reading a bad book as you do from a good one.
Good checkpoints to look out for while reading are the inciting incident (both how it’s executed and its placement within the book), the midpoint, and the climax. If you can nail those three, generally, your natural writing instinct will help fill in the blanks.
3) Learn what types of writing styles you enjoy and begin to shape your own
Everyone has his or her own unique writing voice. In my opinion, voice is the most difficult aspect to nail, especially when you first start writing. And speaking from personal experience, I sounded like a lot of other people before I found my own voice—and it’s something I’m still working on.
The more you read, the more styles and voices you’ll be exposed to, which will help you figure out what makes you like or dislike a book as far as the actual writing goes, inadvertently shaping your own.
Share your thoughts on reading and writing in the comments; I’d love to hear what you think!
And get reading 😉