5 Reading Tips for Writers

In the past year or so, I've been thinking more about the connections between my lifelong reading habit and my writing. Here are some tips for others who may be interested in doing the same thing.

1 - Review What You Read

I review at least half of what I read, preferably right after finishing the book. Going over my reactions (and poking at the reasons for them) has been a big help when thinking about my own work, especially in terms of characterization and structure. I know a lot of people love Goodreads for this, but I feel more comfortable being candid with my journal.

2 - Copy Out Passages That You Love

If a short passage from a book really hooks me, I write it into a small notebook along with the title, author, and a page reference in case I want to find it again. I tend to pick vivid descriptions, snappy dialogue, and bits of exposition that reveal character traits in a compelling way. Flipping through those writing samples can really perk me up when I'm feeling uninspired.

3 - Keep Track of Good Words

There's a section in my journal for words I come across while reading. I write down the ones I want to look up as well as those evocative words that would fit perfectly into the scenes I'm working on. I've started using index cards as bookmarks, that way I can jot down that type of thing without looking around for my notebook. (Pens are in easy reach of all my regular reading spots.)

4 - Vary Your Reading

Since I'm writing a fantasy novel I read plenty of fantasy stories, but I also like a wide variety of other books. Histories and biographies can be especially great for generating ideas. Reading outside my usual range of choices has helped me learn about things like style and pacing, and it's also lead to some new-to-me author obsessions.

5 - Read Out Loud

I sometimes read my own work aloud when I'm struggling with a scene, but I've only recently started trying it with other books. Reading the occasional passage out loud forces me to slow down and pay closer attention to the flow of the language, it shifts my focus from the events of a story to the way they're being expressed, which can change my whole perspective.

Do you have any reading tips that can help the writing process? Please share them in the comments, I'm always looking for new things to try.

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