A rule of thumb I have discovered that many successful authors say is if you are going to write, you need to read… a lot. I get it and I completely agree. I write in the style I write because of the novels I have read throughout my life. My tastes have changed some over the years in terms of what I like to read but I still have my favorite genres and authors, as most people do. From all the different styles, stories, types of fiction, true-life stories, biographies, and everything I have read, I know they all have some influence over my writing. By reading, I know what I like in a good story. I know what keeps bringing me back to want to read more of the story. Without having read as much as I have, I am not sure I would have the ability to have written a novel, much less multiple novels.
When you read, you get a sense, consciously or otherwise, of what intrigues you about a story. You get a sense of the flow of the story, for structure, for the element of surprise and you learn how to create that anticipation within your own story. Much of this I believe has been absorbed organically through all my reading years. I did not set out reading when I was younger with the goal in mind to write a novel one day. It was not homework or research for me, not on a conscious level anyway. It was for enjoyment or escape, pure and simple. But I think over time, a lot of the elements for a good book ingrained themselves in my subconscious, to one day be used.
When I write, that is exactly what runs through my mind. How would (place favorite author’s name here) make this scene or chapter work? How would they keep the excitement or anticipation or flow moving forward from chapter to chapter? Thinking about a specific work of that authors may just help you to work out the details of your story or chapter or whatever it is you are working on. I think it forces me to think differently than I do in my normal everyday life or in my work environment.
By thinking of what would interest me in a story, one I am writing, I think about what would hold my interest. Wondering how I can keep some of the key plot points secret for as long as possible to build that anticipation. Figuring out what characters are needed and how they fit into the story. I always refer back, in my mind, to books I have read and think about what the author did to hold my attention in a situation that is somewhat similar. How did he/she put the story together to make it a fun journey for me?
Spread yourself out when you read. Don’t just stick to one genre but branch out to read all kinds of stories. I am a fiction fan first but I love reading real-life stories about things that have happened in history. Real-life can sometimes be even more incredible than any fiction I have ever read. I also read biographies, short stories in any genre, reference books, books that teach me about a subject, and just about anything in between. My daughter had me read many YA books as she found ones she thought I would like. To be honest, being middle-aged, I probably never would have read YA books prior to that as I thought I was too old to be reading that genre. I was very wrong and found a few of my very favorite books in the YA genre.
The only thing I do not seek out is poetry but that is because I do not understand most of the real poetry I have read. That’s okay, not every genre of writing has to be for everyone. My daughter writes poetry and I try but it is beyond my comprehension. My hat goes off to those that write poetry for it is out of my reach! That is a talent I do not possess but am impressed, nonetheless.
So, read in your spare time or make time to read every day. I read a lot but much of that is the newspaper or magazines I subscribe to (Writer’s Digest is one of my favorites!). Every night before bed, I make time to read a novel. Anywhere from a half-hour to an hour before bed, I set that time aside to read. Now, lying down and reading, I don’t always make it very long but I do set that time aside to read. Every morning on the weekends, I wake up and lay in bed reading a novel for at least an hour, usually closer to two. I love a good story and look forward to my weekend mornings as it is my time to get much of my reading done.
It is good advice from those who know; if you want to be a successful writer of novels then read novels, whether it is fiction, non-fiction, poetry, short stories,
or all of the above. Try as many different authors as you can to see all the different styles and kinds of writing available. There are so many great authors available to us with so many different styles of writing. Your style will be your own but will probably be influenced by one or more of your favorite authors. You’ll never write just like them because your style is your own but it is nice to have these great authors to help influence our own creations.
Happy reading, happy writing!