By Lauren Langford

To become a better writer, you must read often; everyone who aspires to write well has heard this before. Without further instructions, however, a budding writer can find themselves feeling lost as to what kind of reading will lead to superior writing.

As someone who could take up reading for a living if only it paid well, I believe I have a formula to help you read with purpose so that you can write better. You must devote equal time to reading books that challenge your existing trove of knowledge while also strengthening your area of expertise; you must read with a critical eye for the structure of each story as well as the roadmap of the plot; you must learn from the presentation of the characters in each story and the way they develop or advance the action.

Devotion to this purposeful method of reading is the next best thing to having a personal mentor in narratives and composition at your elbow each time you sit down to write.

Your reading choices are important if you wish to be a better writer. If you wish to be an author of young adult novels, read broad and deep in that genre from all its top authors. Make time for the novels that will help you write better in your genre of choice; you might love science fiction adventures, but keep in mind that they will not help you write better if you wish to publish a non-fiction book!

Select books that expand upon your existing knowledge in your area of expertise; if a new book is released presenting a fresh perspective on a topic which you know in detail, do not miss the chance to learn more!

Likewise, if there is a genre or topic which you know nothing about, but which interests you a great deal, do not miss the opportunity to read more about that topic. You never know what might emerge as the missing piece of information you needed to complete your perspective and help you publish your first hit novel.

If you are a bookworm like me, it is commonplace to inhale an entire novel in the span of a weekend and walk away on the other side suffering from what I like to call a hangover induced by binge reading. You could not put that book down, but did you learn anything from it while you read?

Chances are you did not, and that is unfortunate indeed! If reading is your escape, don’t ruin it every time you sit down by trying to analyze the structure of the plot or the roadmap of the story, but start setting aside a little reading time to do just that. Perhaps you could go back and read your favorite book with a critical eye for details you might have missed before. What about the way the story unfolded made it so unputdownable? In your opinion, what are the most masterful attributes of the plot? Start keeping a journal of the things you observe in the writing of others that make their stories engaging and appealing, and when you sit down to write your own novel let them be your guide.

Characters can make or break a story; all writers know this to be true. Think of your favorite book and ask yourself why it is your favorite. Chances are it is because there was a character in that book that you found intriguing or relatable and your desire to find out what happened to that character kept those pages turning. Put on your critical eye once more and apply it to your reading, not all the time, but often enough that you learn something about the most memorable characters in literature.

The best way to hook your readers and keep them wanting more is to write a character, or a whole host of characters, that your readership feels strongly about, identify what it is each of those characters wants more than anything in the world, and figure out how to keep them from getting it over and over in the twists and turns of your plot. Remember the characters you loved best, or perhaps even the characters you hated most, and infuse your own characters with the same depth of personality you encountered in the pages of your most cherished books.

Reading has always been so many things to me: escape, vacation, classroom, teacher, adventure, mirror, friend, life. Those who know me best say they can scarcely picture me without my nose stuck between the pages of a book.

In recent months, however, reading has become something else. In my efforts to write better I have realized my reading habit is a daily lesson of masterful composition, especially if I read with a critical mind. Read because you love it. Reading can only make your life richer and more fulfilled, but also read with purpose because your first novel is counting on all that beautiful inspiration.

Source: Writing Cooperative

 

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