When I give my school presentations to young aspiring writers I always tell them that in order to write, they must read.
Of course, there’s no substitute for actually writing and no matter how many books you read, you won’t be a writer unless you write. But, the best writers are generally those who read.
You can read books on writing. There’s no lack of books on how to write and you need to be careful to read each one with a discerning eye. Some books will advocate one thing and others will insist you must do something completely different. In the end, you have to decide for yourself what works for your own unique writing style.
It’s extremely valuable to read books in the genre in which you hope to write. The more books you can read, the better. As you read, pay attention to how the author uses plot, characterization, setting, pacing, and description. Ask yourself if you think the author has successfully used different techniques and why, or why not. See if the author shows you the story rather than tells it to you. Watch for voice, style, and word choice.
To really understand a genre I recommend you dissect 5-10 books. Use a notebook and detail each entry with title, author, word count, and audience. Next, write a synopsis of the story. Include passages that you found particularly clever, or clumsy, and list reasons why. Keep track of the events and how they lead up to the climax. Examine how long it takes to get to the climax and how quickly the resolution comes.
After you’ve analyzed the books, you’ll find yourself automatically searching published books for these same things. In fact, once you start to examine books in this way, you’ll never read another book the same way again. The more you can understand what’s successful, and what isn’t, in books you read, the easier it will be to apply this knowledge to your own work.
Read books with the purpose of understanding why it was publishable and you’ll soon be on your way to publishing your own book.
Here are a few books I recommend on the art of writing fiction:
- Elements of Writing Fiction – Scene & Structure (Elements of Fiction Writing)
- The Writers Guide to Crafting Stories for Children (Write for kids library)
- Techniques of the Selling Writer
Rebecca Talley grew up in Santa Barbara, CA. She now lives in rural CO on a small ranch with a dog, a spoiled horse, too many cats, and a herd of goats. She and her husband, Del, are the proud parents of ten multi-talented and wildly-creative children. Rebecca is the author of a children’s picture book “Grasshopper Pie” (WindRiver 2003), three novels, “Heaven Scent” (CFI 2008), “Altared Plans” (CFI 2009), and “The Upside of Down” (CFI 2011), and numerous magazine stories and articles. Her newest novel, Aura, was released in 2012. You can visit her blog at www.rebeccatalleywrites.blogspot.com.