The Best Way to Improve Your Fiction Writing (Without Actually Writing)

The prolific and beast of a horror writer Stephen King once said, “If you don’t have time to read, you don’t have the time (or the tools) to write.”  

I must say I agree with Mr. King, with one small edit:  . . . you don’t have the time or the tools to write [well].

I’ve  been doing a lot of reading lately in the genre I write and in others. I’m beginning to explore more and more of the indie-published authors sprouting with the exponential growth of ebooks and online publishing houses. I’ve found lots of gems that are fabulous reads,

but I’ve also found more than a few works whose authors could use a refresher of high school language arts or, at least, a good editor. It’s these latter works that have led to the stigma associated with indie or self-publishing that authors of the former are trying so desperately to overcome.

So, here’s my suggestion for the day. If you are inspired to put pen to paper to write the next great novel of any kind, find an author (or two) who writes well in the genre to which you aspire and read, read, read. Then, find an author or two whose names in the genre (or any genre) aren’t as high on, or even missing from, the various bestseller lists and read, read, read some more. 

For that matter, don’t just stop at one or two in each category. The more authors you read, the more knowledgeable you will become about the writing craft in general, with the caveat that you must be paying attention to the writing and not just getting lost in the story.

I have found that reading books of varying quality levels, from the well written to the mediocre, serves a great purpose. When I read books written with a veritable golden pen, I nearly shout out loud, “Yes! That’s what I want to do!” I go back to my keyboard with a renewed determination to capture the voice and emotion of a character or to paint a scene so well with words that the reader sees a movie unfold in their brain instead of just words on a page.  

When I read books written with a less inspired pen, I often uncover examples of writing traps and faux pas warned against in writing workshops and by writing mentors. This allows me to internalize, “Ah, yes, I get it now. That is something to avoid.”

Use what you learn from reading the books of others to bolster your own craft. Then once you’ve finished the manuscript for each and every book you write, find a good editor. Everyone needs an editor. Even Stephen King has an editor. Nora Roberts has an editor. David Baldacci has an editor. (Just to name a few of my favorite authors to read.) So don’t skimp on this step.

We’ll talk more about editing later. For now, my question to all you authors (published, unpublished, aspiring, et al.) is: What are you currently reading?

Please let me know your answer and your general thoughts on the subject. 

Then, let’s connect:. Follow me on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram via the handle @AuthorRayne.

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