One common piece of advice writers will receive is this:
Read a lot.
And while this seems a bit like a “duh” statement, oftentimes writers find themselves a bit confused: does this mean I’m only supposed to read great literature? Should I only read for learning and not for fun? What if I just want to sit and read fanfic for hours? What if I want to reread the Harry Potter series twice a year?
No, no, and both of those are totally fine.
Here’s the thing about reading like a writer: every writer is different, just like every reader is different. What you read, what you write, and what resonates with you will be different from the next writer.
And that’s ok. This variety is what creates diversity.
But also, as writers, it is important to know this diversity. It’s important to read outside your genre, to read books and articles and magazines you might not otherwise read.
Contrariwise, it’s also important to read deeply. Digging into a genre or author to really understand style is also incredibly important.
So today, to make the process simpler, I’m giving you my top tips for reading like a writer.
#1: Read often.
Reading, like writing, is improved by frequency. The more you read, the better, faster, and more adept you become. And the more adept at reading you become, the more you can pay attention to how a writer writes. You’ll be able to notice sentence structure, dialogue tags, prose, character development, with hardly a second thought.
#2: Read much.
Read anything and everything. Read the genres you love, by all means, but don’t be afraid to stretch yourself. Read books that come highly recommended even if they aren’t your normal fare. Join a book club to read books you might not have read otherwise. Read books, magazines, essays, newspapers. Anything and everything.
#3: Read deeply.
Read deep into the genres and authors you enjoy. Challenge yourself to read everything by your favorite authors. Challenge yourself to read the top twenty most notable books in one of your favorite genres. As you read more and more in a specific area or author, you’ll begin to notice patterns you can use in your reading.
#4: Read wide.
Dabble in every genre, including ones you’re sure you won’t enjoy or pick up again. Find the best book you can in a genre and read it. For years, I thought I would hate romances and mysteries. But then I gave them each a try with a notable book and my writer mind learned something new. I’m not going to pick up a romance book for fun, but I learned the traits of both authentic and corny romances, which will serve me well no matter the genre I write.
#5: Read for fun.
Yes, even if this means fanfiction or Cosmo or movie reviews. We write because we love to read, so read the things that light you up, whether that’s Harry Potter fanfiction or Anna Karenina.
#6: Read to learn.
Notice how an author uses sentence structure or prose to move the story forward. Notice how they use description to incline you towards one character and despise another. Notice how dialogue can feel tense, free, or romantic. Notice when you feel pulled into a different world or caught up in a mystery. Note what the author did to evoke that emotion in you. Then use it in your own writing!
Tell me what you plan to read next in the comments!