You may have heard it said that good writers are those who read. Chances are you already love reading. Each of us has our own tastes and preferences when it comes to reading. Some love action books, others prefer a sweet romance. And within each book genre there are many flavors, so that one action story may make one fan’s heart race but leave another’s flat. You weed through them.
Read, read, read! Reading builds your writing skills in powerful and sometimes subtle ways. You begin to pick up on the rhythm of good writing by expanding your sense of pacing, beats in dialogue, chapter endings or beginnings, and so on. Your vocabulary grows with more powerful verb choices. You discover areas of interest you yourself might like to write about someday. There are hosts of other ways reading can improve your writing, and over time you’ll figure them out.
Then, since you are reading good books, do this: become a book reviewer. Learn the art of writing book reviews. This will not only get you some good, and often free, material for reading, but it will make you really focus on what made the book work — or not.
On my blog, Write Reason, I have a section heading I call my Book Exams. These are books that I review for the casual and discerning reader. Then, strictly for the benefit of writers, I go one step farther by pointing out what writing skills or techniques we can learn from that particular author. Perhaps the author was very good at character development. I tell why. Perhaps they were really, really good at “world building”. I point out how. Maybe they had a simple yet beautiful way of writing prose.
Anyway, if I like a book, doing an “exam” causes me to look closer at the whys. By writing the review, I expand another aspect of my writing ability.
- Visit authors’ web sites and blogs. Many of them, and I do mean MANY, offer the chance to win free books in drawings. I can’t tell you how many books I’ve won through blog drawings. It’s a great way to build your library.
- Make friends with authors. They love to hear from you. New authors, especially, and those from smaller, lesser known publishing houses, are looking for ways to get word of their book out. Many have copies to distribute for review. You, of course, would have to follow through and do the review.
- Start a blog. You can start a blog for free. There are many places – Blogger, WordPress, or others. Or, if you are on Facebook, you can post book reviews in your “notes” section. Go to your library or grab some books off your shelf, roll up your sleeves, and start writing reviews. After a while, when you’ve written enough of them, and perhaps even developed a small following, more authors or publishers will be willing to send you their books.
- And homeschoolers, your parents might consider letting you write book reviews as part of your language arts program. Wouldn’t that rock?