“Read, read, read. Read everything – trash, classics, good and bad, and see how they do it. Just like a carpenter who works as an apprentice and studies the master. Read!”
– William Faulkner
Unfortunately writing is not just about having a good idea. While this is a large step in your creative process, it is by far the least important.
Why? Because you can have the best idea in the world, and no one will read it or understand it if it is not written well.
How does this relate to this Creative Writing Tip you ask?
The more that you read, the more that you know.
As a writer, you lose the luxury of reading for pure enjoyment. It is an unfortunate irony, but that is the reality of the job. Once you accept the hefty responsibility of the pen, you need to start reading like a writer.
What does that mean?
Like Faulkner vehemently suggested, learn from what you read!
1.) Examine your likes
If you absolutely love a particular book, take some time to consider why.
Do you like the dialogue?
Do you like plot?
Does a particular character speak to you? If so, why?
In the same token, you must do the same for books that you dislike.
2.) Power through books that you hate
Sorry, but this is another unfortunate irony to being a writer.
If you start a book and you start to get bored, you no longer have the luxury of putting that book down.
Not only is it a professional courtesy to finish the piece, but it will lead you toward an exercise in analysis.
If you can examine and explain specifically what you do not like in a book, you can avoid making those same mistakes in your writing.
This will also help you to develop the skill to take a step back from your own writing and pinpoint areas for growth.
3.) Close Read
Close reading is the act of combing through a text word by word, sentence by sentence and considering every decision that the writer made.
Every. Word. Counts
There are even distinct differences between synonyms! The slight variation between happy and beaming and take a sentence in a completely different direction.
So analyze the words of other writers carefully. You’ll develop a keen eye and you will start to transfer these skills to the page.
In closing, if you think that you can make it as a writer without reading, you will have a hard time. It’s not impossible, but it is difficult.
In the wise words of Stephen King,
“If you don’t have time to read, you don’t have the time (or the tools) to write.”
The best way that we can learn and better our craft is by reading.
Don’t just read what you like either.
Take a chance.
Try another genre, another author, another format.
If you like high fantasy, try a romance novel.
If you like graphic novels, try a memoir.
You never know, you might find something valuable hidden between the pages.
P.S. If you want to explore new books and new genres but don’t know where to start, try Voracious Readers Only.