4 Ways to Improve Your Writing

The Funnest Way to Learn

My earliest remembered experience with books was when my parents would read to me. Sitting on my dad’s lap, I’d listen as he read The Wind in the Willows. The soft baritone of his voice was relaxing. When mom read Mog the Forgetful Cat, I loved looking at the pictures and laughing at his mishaps.

This was the beginning of a lifetime obsession with books.

My mom would take me to the library and let me check out the six-book limit every time. I remember Mom buying me several books through the Weekly Reader at school. Reading became a passion. I spent a lot of time in the library or in bookstores when we went to the city.

A natural transition from reading is writing. I’d imagine many authors can relate. In order to write effectively, there are four important aspects of reading every author should think about.

1. Read Frequently

How many writers are lifelong readers? Read what you like, whether it’s fiction, biographies, newspapers, or magazines. By reading frequently, you’ll grasp the art of language.

You’re going to be inspired along the way. Write down the things that spark a fire in your imagination. You never know when these little gems are going to be of use.

2. Read Well-Written Books

When I read A Separate Peace in sixth grade, I fell in love with the writing–the descriptions and the tone and something else that just seemed to work like magic to me. I learned just how beautifully a book could be written. Perhaps you’ve read books that had a similar effect on you.

never infect your writing with creative kryptonite

I’ve read everything from Nancy Drew to Wuthering Heights. I read what I enjoy and find different qualities to appreciate in most everything I read. The rhythm of my writing seems to be in-part influenced by the books I read while I’m writing. Sometimes, when a book really gets into my head, it overwhelms my own narrative voice. Never infect your writing with creative kryptonite. Analyze what you like about other books and use it to enhance, not weaken, your own voice.

3. Read the Genre You Like

Although reading widely is important, you may want to focus your reading on the genre you like to write. This can give you an idea of what readers of a particular genre expect and enjoy. Certainly, the content and rhythm of a romance novel is different from fantasy, horror, history, or mystery. Maybe you’ll find a fresh angle or figure out the formula for the next best-seller.

I have to confess, I don’t do a good job of following this advice, myself. I read more literary fiction than genre fiction and always gravitate toward mysteries when it comes to genres. But, who knows, maybe one day I’ll write that medical mystery my mother-in-law keeps asking me to write.

4. Excel in Using the English Language

Reading well-written content frequently can help, but it may not be enough.

When I was a kid, my school used to offer books that were being replaced by newer editions. When you’d come to pick up your last report card for the year, you’d find a few books stacked outside the classroom doors for disposal. Among other things, I brought home Warriner’s English Grammar and Compositon. I know, I know. What kind of nerd can’t wait to take home a book that discusses grammar and diagramming sentences? This nerd, that’s who.

I referred to that book all through high school and college, and even now, I look through it. Frequently used pages are saved with odd bookmarks like old shoestrings, a Christmas card, a scrap of paper–forming a sort of joint-history between myself and the book. It’s not the only reference book I use, but it’s an old friend.

In an editing class I took once, our professor Charlyne Berens drilled into us that you have to understand the rules of writing well to be a good writer. Once you know the rules, you can choose to break them. But then, it’s a choice–not a mistake.

Find a grammar and composition reference book to adopt as your own old friend. Not every line you write needs to be poetry, but every grammatical error or misspelling is a way for the reader to fall out of love with your otherwise amazing story.

Anyway you look at it, reading is likely a passion of yours already. So, indulge yourself . . . check out or buy that book you’ve been drooling over. You know you want to.

If you’d like to know other ways to improve your writing, reference the Top 10 Ways to Find Inspiration.

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