When I first signed with a literary agent several years ago, she told me to read as much as I could because it would improve my own writing. I never forgot that advice, and while I have always loved to read, after that I began to read with a different eye.
I enjoy a variety of genres and always have a book on my nightstand (or on my Kindle), and with each one I learn something that positively affects my own work. Sometimes it’s the way an author uses details such as colors, sounds, or smells to enrich a description, or the way I’m drawn into a chapter by a subtle hint that something terrible is going to happen, or how I find myself caring about a particular character due to the way the author shares interesting nuggets about his or her past. (I’ve said here before that quirks make characters real, and one reason I so strongly believe that is because of how I’ve responded to characters as a reader, not just because of how my readers have responded to characters I’ve created.)
Another way reading helps me is by expanding my vocabulary. Much like the way I speak, with each novel I write I find myself reaching for the same words and phrases because they’re familiar to me, and the force of habit is strong! Now I keep a notebook by my bed when I’m reading and jot down words or descriptions that jump out at me as unusual, interesting, or flat-out unfamiliar. I love the Kindle because I can look up a word’s meaning simply by pressing the screen–and when I’m reading a paperback I keep a good ol’ fashioned dictionary handy.
They say to be a writer you should (try to) write every day. Toss in some reading, and you’re on your way!
This blog post originally appeared on CreateSpace.com. Reprinted with permission. © 2016 CreateSpace, a DBA of On-Demand Publishing, LLC. All rights reserved.