The best preparation for deep writing is deep reading.
There are no lack of bestselling authors telling you as much, inviting you behind the curtain to point out that the biggest secret to writing is that there is no ONE big secret.
There are, however, many little secrets.
Reading deeply and widely is the quickest path to the majority of these secrets, as great writing transcends genre, and modeling success is a proven route to reproducing greatness.
Read well to write well.
But how exactly do you read? And how exactly do certain reading strategies accelerate mastery of your craft?
5 Weird Ways Reading Makes You A Better Writer
The first and main reason to read is for pure, unadulterated enjoyment.
Allow yourself to get swept away by the narrative, to delve into the richness of prose, to fade away into the story.
This, after all, is what you likely hope for your readers.
Delighted reading is reading for fun.
The more you create this experience for yourself, the more you’ll be able to recreate it for your readers.
After the emotion of story, the next major way (and reason) to read is for assimilating the structure of compelling stories.
Remember, all bestselling stories follow similar narrative patterns. By exposing yourself to these patterns, over and over again, the patterns imprint themselves on your subconscious.
Then, when you go to write, your mind will naturally steer you toward these same patterns.
Alluring writing offers its own literary lessons, from meta structure to highly specific techniques of word choice.
When you read an especially powerful opening, description, fight or love scene, chapter ending or subtext-filled dialogue, stop for a moment.
Read the section again with an eye toward not only what happened but how it happened.
Ask yourself, “What made this so good?”
Here are a few techniques to look for:
- Word choice
- Sentence structure
- Point of View
Once you know how it’s done, you effectively have the author’s secret recipe for writing powerful scenes.
The funny thing is, if you do this enough, you might know more “behind the curtain” tricks than the author herself!
One of the best ways to enhance your own writing is to try to improve the writing of others.
In other words, read like an editor.
As you read, think about the choices the author made and how you might improve them.
What if the character looked different?
What if the character said something different?
What if the word choice were different?
What if the setting or mood of the scene were different?
Another way to approach this kind of reading is to look for big and even small tweaks to improve the story.
How would you make this story better?
The last – and highest – form of reading in integrated reading. This is reading that places all the previous forms (delight, structure, craft and critique) in context with the full range of the story while also connecting to your own personal style.
How do all the parts work together?
What are the overall lessons?
Does the approach match your personal strengths, values and style?
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