(Excerpted from my book, Create Your Writer's Life: A Guide to Writing with Joy and Ease.)
Reading is one of the best teachers for writers. It may be that your love of reading has influenced your desire to write. Take a moment to consider how your life as a reader has effected your life as a writer. You may read for pleasure or for knowledge. Now I ask you to read for writing guidance.
When you read to learn, you read to absorb tips on effective and powerful writing. You may notice that you gravitate toward a certain genre or style of writing. You may be reading what you enjoy writing. I love personal essays and magazine articles, short stories and novels. These are all genres that I have written in.
You can magnify your learning by making notes on what you are reading. Practice active reading by asking yourself the following questions:
- How does the author start and finish paragraphs?
- How does the author use language? Copy down a sentence or two and take note of the basic structure of the writing. Long sentences? Short sentences? A combination?
- How does the author develop characters? Pay attention to how dialog, description, and action give you information about the characters.
- What keeps you reading? What questions do you have as you go along?
- What need is the piece you are reading fulfilling in your life? Are you getting information, entertainment, and education?
- What made this a saleable piece of writing? What worked?
- What skills, techniques, or elements of the story grab your attention?
- What elements of this style of writing can you focus your efforts on?
Keep a log of your reading. Write down phrases and sentences that move you. Take notes on what you think the author did that made it such a good piece of writing. Use these notes as your own tutorial for writing.
The community of writers and readers is a vast one. Much can be gained from reading, whether you read for pleasure or read more actively to assess writing styles. Let your reading encourage and support your writing.