I love to read. If I see a book I think I would enjoy, I either buy it or add it to my wish list. My coworker buys me books for my birthday and Christmas. If there’s a topic I want to learn more about, I don’t Google it; I try and find a book about the topic instead. Reading has always played a significant role in my life and my education post-school, and it’s an activity that I enjoy.
One of my favorite authors, Stephen King, has said: “If you don’t have time to read, you don’t have the time (or the tools) to write. Simple as that.” I have a feeling King knows what he’s talking about.
If you’re a writer, I encourage you to take the time to read. Not books about writing, which I’ll talk about next week, but a wide variety of fiction and non-fiction books.
Read Outside Your Genre
If you are an author who writes primarily in a specific genre – Young Adult, Romance, Thriller, Mystery, etc. – I encourage you to read novels that aren’t from your chosen realm. While it’s essential to know and understand your genre’s tropes, themes, and other elements, it’s equally important to see how different genres work within their various story conventions to see what you can learn. You can often glean some new bit of story structure or character development idea from a novel outside your chosen area of expertise.
Read Different Authors
We often get comfy with a couple authors we enjoy and stick with them. Dare to pick authors you may not be familiar with and read their works as well. Your favorite author isn’t going anywhere.
Read Books from Other Decades
We are creatures of habit. Most of the time, if it’s a book that’s a current best-seller, or one on display at Target, it’s the book we grab to read. However, it’s also important to delve into the past and read authors whose work lives long after their passing. The classics have inspired authors for generations, and by looking at these works, you can learn new aspects of storytelling that you can possibly apply to your work.
Read History, Autobiographies, and Biographies
The real world can offer up some great story ideas, and you can learn a thing or two along the way. Real human beings, human behavior, and human drama can sometimes be more engaging and fascinating than fiction, and these types of books can give you a fresh perspective on topics you think you know about.
Read to Learn
As you read, observe how the author crafts their chapters, characters, and story arcs. Look at how they format certain things. For example, I’ve seen text messaging and phone calls formatted in many different ways in novels, depending on the author.
If you found yourself up until 3 in the morning not wanting to put the books down, ask yourself why? What was it about the story, the characters, or the pacing that made you have to keep reading? These are elements you can analyze and apply to your work as well.
Always Go with Variety
If you’ve plotted out your 2021 reading list, consider adding books and authors you usually wouldn’t read. Maybe an author whose work you don’t enjoy, or one whose opinions bother you. Look at them less as annoying reading assignments and more like learning opportunities. Each book you open can inform your own writing methodology and how you create your worlds and story.
And all you need to do is turn to Chapter One and start reading.
As a writer, how do you decide what books to read? Leave a comment and let me know!