The Art of Reading to Improve Your Writing

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by Precarious Yates

We can read tons of writing books explaining craft to us, but the single best way to improve our writing skills is by reading stories.

Whether these stories are nonfiction or wild fantasy, reading them does something to help writers that few other practices will do. When we read, our writer’s mind subconsciously (and sometimes consciously) picks up on what it is that makes a story work, and what hinders it. The more we find ourselves lost in a story, the more powerful these aspects of story implant themselves in our brain.

But what’s the best sort of book to read?

A lot of people will advise that you read within the genre that you’re going to write. If you write mystery, read mystery. If you write fantasy, read fantasy. If you write nonfiction, read nonfiction.

While this advice is very helpful, I suggest stretching yourself. Read outside of the genre you write. Read mysteries to add more mystery to your science fiction story. Read more fantasy to understand placement of descriptions in your romance stories so there aren’t a bunch of talking heads. Read historical novels to understand the emotional background of that contemporary coming of age story you’ve had floating around your mind for years.

Sometimes when I read, I find it hard to turn off my critical and editor brain. Do you ever have that happen? I see places where I would have written things differently, or where I have trouble suspending disbelief.

Other times, a story totally sweeps me away. It plays through my mind stronger than a movie and I’m on the stage as one of the characters. I love stories that completely transport me like that. Don’t you?

That’s what our readers are looking for too. And the more we fill our minds with stories like that, the more we’re able to make our own stories read like that.

While books on writing craft and skills can be very helpful, they don’t inform our mind about story structure and character arc the way that novels can.

What’s the best book you’ve read in the last few months (or year)? What is one story you’ve read that you got so lost in that you forgot to study the various aspects of what make it so awesome?

About the Author:

Precarious YatesPrecarious Yates has lived in 8 different states of the Union and 3 different countries, but currently lives in Texas with her husband, her daughter and their big dogs. When she’s not writing, she enjoys music, teaching, playing on jungle gyms, praying and reading. She holds a Masters in the art of making tea and coffee and a PhD in Slinky® disentangling.

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