I'm a huge believer that writers must read. All the time. In all genres, but particularly the ones they write. Read ABA. Read CBA. Read bestsellers. Read what works. Read what doesn't. Why do I so firmly believe you have to read? Because it's as you read that you will subconsciously learn the ways to write the novel you want to read -- and that hundreds, thousands, and more of readers just like you will enjoy -- and expect.
Now, I can hear you. Many of you are arguing that you don't have time to read, because you're writing. Here are a couple strategies I use to always be reading:
- I always carry a paper book with me. I have one in the car right now that I can't wait to start, but it's there waiting for that moment I'm waiting on a child at their activity. As soon as that happens, I can snap that baby up and read for a few minutes. It doesn't take too many pockets of time like that to finish a book.
- If somehow my trusty paperback fails me, I have a Kindle app on my phone and iPad, and I always have one or both of those with me. While e-reading is not my first choice, it works in a pinch. And it's a great way for me to get to books I might otherwise forget about.
- I taught myself to read on the treadmill while training for mini-marathons. Now you don't need to run a crazy race like that to make use of your exercise time to read. Exercise bikes are perfect for reading. Walking on a treadmill and reading is super easy. Jogging and running are skills you can work up to. I recommend books you can throw away or iPads for treadmill reading.
- I've given myself permission to keep reading. It's one thing I can do that is for me. It sounds silly that I had to give myself permission, but it is one key way that I relax.
So what should you be looking for now that you've recaptured some time to read? There are several things you can look for whether you're reading for pleasure or purposefully reading to dissect.
- Think about what has you coming back to the book. If your TBR pile is anything like mine, it's down-right daunting. Why are you still reading the book you are? Is it the characters? The setting? The plot? The romance? The dialogue? Take the time ;;;;to thin about what makes the book work for you.
- On the flipside, if a book doesn't work for you, take the time to figure out why. What didn't resonate with you? What had you struggling to connect with the book and its premise?
- If it's a genre you want to write in, take the time to pick a couple books apart. Do a literal chapter by chapter summary. You will learn so much about pacing and reader expectations if you take the time to do this. It doesn't have to be detailed -- just enough to let you know what's happening and which story thread it is with. It's a great way to pick up nuances about genre expectations that you'll breeze right over when you're reading solely for pleasure.
Have you ever read with the intent of learning to be a better writer? What helped you do that?
An award-winning author of twenty books, Cara is a lecturer on business and employment law to graduate students at Purdue University’s Krannert School of Management. Putman also practices law and is a second-generation homeschooling mom. She lives with her husband and four children in Indiana.