A significant component of how to become a better writer is to read others’ work. If you want to write a book, read as many as possible. Consuming content lets you take in words and different perspectives. Reading books improves your writing by the process, learning through osmosis. You get new ideas and attain knowledge by exposing yourself to other authors’ work. The learning method happens naturally and on an unconscious level. You might not feel that you benefit from reading. However, the brain is like a sponge and can absorb a lot of information.
Here’s how to approach reading other writer’s content and being open to learning:
- Be Critical but Don’t Over Judge
As a writer, when you read someone’s work, you may focus on mistakes you see. While it’s important to notice errors, there’s no need to condemn another writer. Look at other authors’ shortcomings with an open mind and heart.
Author Pamela Metz writes: “Mistakes teach us to begin again, learning to keep trying.”
- Read Content in Your Genre
Choose stories or books on topics or plots similar to what you want to write. Every title has something to teach us but focusing on your genre is more effective. Ask yourself why you are drawn to fiction or nonfiction? Do you love storytelling or want to inform or inspire others? After reading books similar to your niche, reflect and assess what was done poorly. How would you make the work better? Did you notice that certain elements were irrelevant or drawn out?
- Read Authors “Better” Than You
Embrace intriguing books and authors that make you feel a little insecure. By absorbing amazing authors’ work, you begin to learn through osmosis. Ask yourself, “what makes these books amazing?” Similar to friends and family members you’re drawn to, the same can be said about authors. We all have our favorite authors and those that inspired us to write. Look beyond their work and, through introspection, understand why you love certain writers. Know what types of work publishers are seeking.
- Don’t Feel Deflated
Reading a book by an author who inspires you may have you feeling “not good enough.” You don’t just sit down and write a masterpiece in one session. Writing compelling content takes time, practice, discipline, and learning. By recognizing your weaknesses, you possess an awareness to improve. There’s no need to dwell in despair and tell yourself you’ll never be able to do it. You can by setting goals and sticking to them through effort.
- Take Notes of Meaningful Entries
In the digital age of audio and ebooks, how many of us love to read the old-fashioned way? Who loves holding the physical version of a book in their hand that you can open up. Go to pages that have valuable content and take notes. Jot down thoughts on the margins if there’s space or in a notebook for future reference. You can use sticky tab bookmarks or even highlight text if you’re okay with making the book truly yours. Get creative and use different colors to assign and organize meaningful entries.
- Revisit Your Notations
You may keep your notes private, which is fine. Consciously make an effort to revisit your discoveries on the writing process. Focus on your methodology and then verbalize successful techniques demonstrated. Also, reiterate points in the book that fell flat. You can process your assessment and learn from it by revisiting your notes. Tracking your observations leads to knowledge and sharpens your instincts when writing.
- Study Certain Aspects to Model
If you plan to write a story, study the books you’re reading. Pay attention to how the author introduces dialogue, characters, and plot. Does the narrative flow nicely, or is it choppy, and do you notice any foreshadowing? How do other books written by the author compare? Earlier works may be rough, but the books often get better as writers master their craft. Once you study an author, you’ll get a grasp of their writing techniques. For any books you find worthwhile, you can consider certain aspects of the content when you write. For nonfiction, closely view the approach and topic. Does the book deliver the information comprehensibly? Study the author’s methods and determine what drew you in and distracted from the subject.
- Look at the Structure, Layout, and Tone
Look closely at the structure for books that don’t have your specific genre or expertise. Don’t focus on the subject matter, but the layout and tone of the book. Storylines typically have plot points throughout the book broken into fours. Divide the book with marks in quarters. Then, weigh the plot theme in the four sections of the book. See if the author successfully meets the points; if they do, major twists happen in those sections. Dividing the books helps new or experienced authors get in a habit to learn how the layout works. If the author falls short, how would you approach the writing process?
- Utilize Newfound Knowledge
For authors, reading is invaluable, but writing is one’s calling and more important. After you finish reading a book, review your notes. Then, begin your planning to write your work of art. Maybe, your work will serve as a guide to help other writers start their journey.