With the twenty-four hour read-a-thon happening again this weekend, I’ve been thinking about the one piece of advice that authors, agents, publishers, editors – everyone in the writing business, really – are constantly giving new writers.
You learn the craft of writing by seeing what others have done; by reflecting on what works and what doesn’t. You can study plot, characterisation, setting, and structure – not by reading how-to books, but by reading widely.
Some important things that I’ve learnt so far about writing, and the books I’ve learnt them from:
1. Smaller chapters make for easy reading - UGLIES by Scott Westerfeld
2. Protagonists don’t always have to be reliable - LIAR by Justine Larbalestier
3. If done right, having multiple protagonists can give a story many rich layers - TO THE GENTLEMAN IN THE BACK by Alicia Blade (aka Marissa Meyer). You can find the story here.
4. Middle grade does not limit your audience to just children - The HARRY POTTER series by J.K. Rowling
5. Epilogues to give ultra-happy endings don’t necessarily equate to ultra-happy readers - HARRY POTTER AND THE DEATHLY HALLOWS by J.K. Rowling
6. Stories don’t need romance to be fun - CHRONICLES OF NARNIA by C.S. Lewis; RONDO series by Emily Rodda
7. Having a witty, cheeky protagonist means you can get away with writing epistolaries - DADDY LONG LEGS by Jean Webster
8. A well-placed twist can make the whole story - AROUND THE WORLD IN EIGHTY DAYS by Jules Verne
I could go on for pages. Reading is the best way to improve your writing.
Now it’s your turn. What have you learnt about writing from reading?