Second, you must read, and read a lot. Did I say A LOT? I read over a hundred books a year and have done so since I was fifteen years old, and every book I’ve read has taught me something. I’ve learned that some authors are incredible at building suspense (see The Firm by John Grisham), I’ve read others that scare the jeepers out of me (see The Shining by Stephen King). Some authors can weave an incredible number of story lines into a single, coherent novel, with all parts coming together at the end that makes it impossible to stop turning the pages (see The Sum of all Fears by Tom Clancy), while other authors make me laugh out loud (seeBloodsucking Fiends by Christopher Moore). I’ve also learned that many, many authors fail when attempting to do these things. By reading a lot of novels in a variety of genres, and asking questions, it’s possible to learn how things are done—the mechanics of writing, so to speak—and which genres and authors excel in various areas.
Nicholas Sparks (Source: “5 Unconventional Ways to Become a Better Writer”)
In almost every interview with a successful author that I’ve read or listened to the piece of advice that comes up again and again for other authors is: read a lot and write a lot.
To get better at writing, you have to read books in your genre and outside of your genre and find out what makes those books work.
To break down a little bit this specific advice from bestselling author Nicholas Sparks, consider what his experience shows:
- Read a lot: 100+ books every year
- Look for author strengths
- Look for author failures
- Read different genres
- Ask questions
Reading can still be a pleasurable experience for us as writers, but we must also take the opportunity to reflect on what we read so that we can learn from other authors and excel in our own work.