Want to know the best tool for improving your writing? Well, too bad– we’re going to talk about the second best: READING. (If you were wondering, the best way to improve your writing is by writing. Surprise!)
Can we take a moment to address how angry this book looks? Must be tough being 2nd best.
How to use this tool
Pick up a book of any genre. It’s good to be versed in the genre you plan to write in, but don’t limit yourself– you can learn from everything. The book doesn’t even have to be “good;” you can learn a lot from the mistakes of someone else.
You read the book. How did you feel about it? Did you love it, hate it, or was it just “meh?”
Did you speed read or gloss over any sections? Did you forget to eat lunch because you were busy devouring words?
Which parts of the story made you react that way? Characterization? Description? Dialogue? Plot?
Did the description bring the story to life? Was it a certain literary device that struck you? Were the characters horrible people yet oddly likeable? Take a closer look at what you loved or hated, and see if you can scrape away the surface details until it’s in its most basic structure. (e.g. Loki from Thor is generally a terrible person, and clearly the villain, but we love him! Why? Is it because from his point of view, he is the victim? Is it because he is actively working toward his goal, rather than sitting around waiting for the hero to come to him?)
This is the time to let your inner editor out of the cage– the one you rightfully gagged during the first draft. Be completely honest with yourself: Does your novel suffer from any of the same pitfalls you’ve uncovered in the book you read? Did you speed read during pages of description, but wrote pages of description in your own novel?
You know what you hated or liked and you’ve looked beyond the text to understand why you felt that way. Now it’s time to apply what you’ve learned to your own work and show the world that you’re serious about this writing thing– You can do it!
Need something to read?
The following classics are available for FREE download because they are no longer protected by copyright law: Poor, defenseless stories… You should rescue them!*
* For my Non-U.S. visitors: Please check your local copyright laws before downloading.
* For my U.S. visitors: Feel free to take without asking; it’s an American tradition.
Click a genre to go directly to that section.
The Importance of Being Earnest by Oscar Wilde
Persuasion by Jane Austen
The Phantom of the Opera by Gaston Leroux
Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen
The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes by Arthur Conan Doyle
The Casebook of Sherlock Holmes by Arthur Conan Doyle
The Hound of Baskervilles by Arthur Conan Doyle
The Memoirs of Sherlock Holmes by Arthur Conan Doyle
The Return of Sherlock Holmes by Arthur Conan Doyle
The Sign of the Four by Arthur Conan Doyle
20,000 Leagues Under the Sea by Jules Verne
The Call of Cthulhu by H.P. Lovecraft
The Invisible Man by H.G. Wells
The Iron Heel by Jack London
The Time Machine by H.G. Wells
The War of the Worlds by H.G. Wells
Frankenstein by Mary Shelley
The Legend of Sleepy Hollow by Washington Irving
The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde
The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde by Robert Louis Stevenson
Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Caroll
The Blue Fairy Book by Andrew Lang
People of the Dark by Robert Ervin Howard
The Phoenix on the Sword by Robert Ervin Howard
The Wonderful Wizard of Oz by Lyman Frank Baum
The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas
The Hunchback of Notre Dame by Victor Hugo
The Man in the Iron Mask by Alexandre Dumas
A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens
The Three Musketeers by Alexandre Dumas