Writers’ Guide 101 – Reading your way to becoming a better Writer

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In our last lesson we established that one of the ways to become a Creative writer/Fiction writer is by reading. Someone said that there are two ways to becoming a writer — write a lot, and read a lot.

reading

I like to think that reading a lot comes as precedence to writing a lot and writing well.

Now when I say reading, do not panic as you imagine yourself locked away in a library surrounded by encyclopaedia-looking books with hard backs that can crack your skull should it topple over and fall on you… Lol. Take a deep breath and relax for that is not the kind of reading I am talking about here… well, unless of course you are the bookworm type and are not at all scared witless by library, voluminous books.

Now our Writers’ Guide for today is entitled Reading your way to becoming a better Writer.

It is my greatest belief… and I do renew that belief today… that a writer must also be a voracious reader. I also believe that enlightenment is brought on through Reading. And it appears there are those who agree with me…

“No matter how busy you may think you are, you must find time for reading, or surrender yourself to self-chosen ignorance.” — Confucius

“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! You’ll absorb it.” — William Faulkner

Taking the words of this great Philosopher and this great writer and Nobel Prize Laureate to heart, let us delve into How Reading makes a better Writer of you.

1. Become a habitual reader. This is the first thing to do in your plan of reading your way to a better writer.

But don’t just plan to read or read once in every blue moon, read all the time, anywhere and anyhow — sitting, lying down, standing, squatting — READ.

To make this truly a habit, you might want to set up reminders and goals. Have a reading schedule and take a book with you everywhere you go. Even long after you’ve made the writer title, keep reading. Read widely and broadly — everything, from various genres of novels to magazines, periodicals, newspapers etc.

2. Read Great writers. I asked a writer friend of mine after admiring his skillful use of words, how he did that and he replied ‘learn from the greats’. I expect he meant, read great writers and he was so right. It used to be a secret weapon of mine… that was until I put on my lazy-reader hat, lol.

But don’t just read popular, acclaimed writers/authors only, read works of great storytellers too. Read Writers who bring words to life by the magic of their writing style. Writers who create characters you can empathise with, who write with wit, who use words that inspire you and whose stories touch something in you.

3. Become inspired. Reading creates inspiration to write.

I have found this to be true. When I lose focus or can’t find my words, I open a book and  just a few pages into it, I find my inspiration returning and I’m jotting down ideas or flying off to my laptop to write. This is so true of me and while researching this lesson, I discovered it to be true of many writers.

Reading inspires you to write… if you have the passion to do so.

4. Develop your vocabularyand learn the art of using words. Reading broadens your vocabulary.

You learn new words, new terms and that is not all, you learn how to use them. Study how this great writer/storyteller uses words. How he creates twists and turns with simple, everyday words. How he matches up words to create unique expressions.

While reading, have a notepad close at hand and jot down these new words and expressions your are learning. Don’t just jot them down and shut your notepad afterwards, use the Dictionary and know the meanings, synonyms and antonyms of these words.

Don’t just read for pleasure, read like you are in the classroom.

5. Discover new ideas. Reading helps you discover new ideas.

This is especially why you must not limit your reading purview. A Newspaper report or an article in a magazine can inspire you with a new storyline. A Bible verse or a Googled-up subject can clarify things and help you see a better way of writing that story.

In reading You become better educated about ideas you already have. You become more enlightened and better able to write on a chosen subject.

6. Analyse the book You readcharacter, plot, theme. Words are not the only things to study while you are reading, characters in the book should be studied, writer’s plotting style and theme also.

This I must confess I haven’t done much, if at all only vaguely. But it is recommended as a way to improve your writing via reading. Studying how the writer presented each character, from main to minor. This helps you to know how to do the same. Find out the theme of the book you are reading and how the writer conveyed it. And also check out how the writer plotted his story and presented it for your reading pleasure.

Your handy notepad will be helpful here to recall writing style in future.

7. Steal their words and style. Yes, as criminal as that sounds, that’s what you’ve got to do as you discover your own style and perfect it.

Steal the words of your favourite writer and use it… in practice writing, in free reads. As you do this, you discover your own technique and finally don’t need to steal no more. Lol.

I would suggest though that you use these stolen styles in your practice writings and free reads. This is the perfect way to find your own technique and hone your own style and skill. This way when you are publish-ready, you won’t be branded a rogue-author.

8. Expand your genre horizon. Don’t be a genre snob, you are only limiting yourself.

So many writers/aspiring writers claim to only favour so and so genre and turn their nose up at other genres…’I read Thriller and Horror, but can’t stand Romance.’ Superior as that might sound to you, the advice from the Pros is read all.

And it might surprise many Stephen King readers to know that he started out as a closet Romance writer under the pen name — Regina Stephens. Go figure, right?

So, don’t be such a genre snob, read all… or at least as many genres as you possibly can.

9. Discover Your genre. While reading diverse genres, you will no doubt discover your own genre.

Reading not only teaches you language and style, it helps you decide for a genre you can comfortably write. I really believe my starting off with reading Romance since I was nine, made me the Romance writer I am today. But of course, delving into other genres like Crime, Thriller, Mystery and all such is broadening my writing style and helping me try out other genres too.

So, read broadly and you just might find yourself writing more than one genre. I dream of doing just that. Of course that is not a widely supported writer-dream… but that is discussion for another day.

10. Read for pleasure too. Don’t just read to accomplish something, read for the sheer pleasure of doing so — just reading. It is important you enjoy what you read because if you are going to be sorely bored, learning becomes a trial.

So, read for the simple pleasure of reading.

And that is that for our Writers’ Guide lesson for today, now if you are wondering ‘where do I begin my reading habit from? What do I read?’, I say — find out what friends, family, colleagues and everyone else is reading and get on  it.

*If you enjoyed today’s lesson, please share a valuable comment and Share this via our Share buttons underneath with your friends and family. Till next week, it’s cheers and have a great week.*

**Many thanks to writetodone.com; bluestandish.hubpages.com & goinswriter.com**

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13 thoughts on “Writers’ Guide 101 – Reading your way to becoming a better Writer

  1. I’m kind of a voracious reader, i read everytin d@ comes my way buh 1 thing i dnt do is #4 and #6 and i’ve never tried writing too, wen i’m determined to write, i go blank. I’ve accepted d fact dat i can’t write though… Can everybody write?

    • Exactly the same problem I have. I have ideas of good plots in my head but my problem us putting them down in words. When I pick a note pad and a pen, I go blank. I don’t know where to start from. Hopefully with more lessons from TM, I should be able to over come this problem. Thanks TM

    • Well, we all can surely write something – diaries, articles, journals etc.
      Those are in themselves, Writing, albeit Non-Fictional Writing.

      But the art of Fictional writing or indepth non-fictional writing is mostly innate, i.e. you are born with the talent to do so, or it can be learned.
      But I do feel that learning fiction writing can be a bit tedious without the basic passion or gift to do so.

      But sometimes, fear of failure might keep us from trying things out.

      To answer your question more plainly, not everybody can or should write… at least not Creatively.

      But I hope you keep reading as no knowledge is ever lost.

  2. I think maybe there is a fear of failure in play here. If you can ‘imagine’ a storyline, if you can see it in your mind’s eye, then I’d like to believe there is a writer in you.

    It might be the pressure of ‘oh gosh, I think it won’t be good enough.’

    I’ll tell you something, many writers tear off pages and pages off their notepad and click the delete button over and over, before they settle for a paragraph….I know I do, lol.

    But maybe these lessons will help… I hope they do.
    Overtime, we’ll introduce practice writing for those who wants to try.

    Thanks Jeffrey for reading.

  3. This is educational, really. I used to fancy myself a writer, I can remember I wrote a lot in sec school and in the early years of my university days but I’ve since stopped because of being lazy and a tad busy I think. Nevertheless, I read a looot. Hopefully my love for writing will be rekindled. Thanks for this.

    • It is such a pleasure believing this can be of help to anyone.

      I started out writing in secondary school and stopped after a while too, lol. I do believe that renewing that passion can get your pen ‘scribing’ again.

      Looking forward to hearing that has happened.

  4. Interesting info. I am sure I developed my writing skills through reading just three or four great writers… John Grisham thought me how to add humour.
    James hardly chase thought me how to escape danger.
    Dan Brown thought me how to discover secrets and Sydney Sheldon showed me how to run from one place to another.

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