One of the things I’ve noticed since hosting The Bleeding Keyboard discussions is the number of writers who give the advice ‘read’. It’s a common thing for writers to say and I think that a lot of people underestimate the importance and relevance of reading to the skills of being a writer.
- Read critically: read fiction you enjoy and try to work out what parts of the fiction you are enjoying. Is it the fast-paced dialogue? Is it the exciting action scenes or the detailed description? Find out what it is that makes a story work for you, and be sure to include that in the writing you create.
- Read critically: read stuff you don’t enjoy. Again, the reasoning here is to work out what DOESN’T work for you. Is there too much description? Are the characters shallow? Does the dialogue sound like it’s been written by a robot? This can be a tough exercise but, once you figure out what it is you don’t like in a particular text, it’s easier to keep those same failings out of your own work.
- Read broadly: don’t limit yourself to a single genre. If you want to write horror, it’s worth reading horror to see how other writers achieve their goals. But it’s also worth reading romance to see how the same skills of narrative tension are used to evoke a different response. It’s worth reading mystery stories to see how the writer teases an audience with the puzzle of the unknown. Whichever genre you prefer, always be aware that you can learn valuable and relevant skills from other genres.
- Read outside the mainstream: If you’re looking to see what mainstream publishers want, reading mainstream fiction is very useful. However, if you’re looking for originality and trying to see what can come from writers who think outside the box, Independent Authors have a lot to offer. Try to find out the names of the successful Indie Authors in your preferred genre, and try to work out what these writers are doing right.
- Read and REVIEW: If you’re reading something from an independent author, make sure you leave a review. this is partly because Indie authors need those reviews but, of equal importance, writing a review will allow you to reflect on what went well in the story so you have a better chance of being critically engaged with the piece.