One of the most important things that you can do, as a writer, is to read. Reading fills up your so-called creative tank and gives you ideas for future writing projects. Reading was probably what made you want to write in the first place. When you read widely, you’re able to identify patterns of writing that you can then use in your own work. Reading the work of others is the foundation for creating your own work. At first, you’ll borrow from the authors that you enjoy the most, and then their work will become mere inspiration for your own unique ideas.
But you should attempt to read in a critical fashion if you’re going to get anything out of what you’re reading. Simply reading a story, setting it down, and saying that you liked it is not enough. To learn something from what you read, and to use that in your own writing, you need to read critically and ask important questions along the way.
On his blog, Terrible Minds, Chuck Wendig included reading critically in his list of ways a writer cultivates instinct. Wendig says you should ask questions such as, “Why do I like this character? What’s wrong with this plot? Why is this working? Why is it not? Could I write that sentence differently? Better? Worse?”
At first, it might be difficult to ask these questions as you’re trying to enjoy the book that you’re reading. But soon it will become instinct and you’ll have no trouble picking apart the pieces of a written work. Once you know how to do that, you’ll be on your way to creating something of your own using the knowledge that you’ve gained.
I hope this advice helps you out, and I hope that you read more critically in the future. Happy writing!
— Jet Fuel Blog Editor, Mary Egan