Are we very lazy writers and don’t want to write? Yes, yes we are. Is there really a way to get better at writing without writing? Yes, yes there is.
Today I’m going to be sharing with you 3 things you can do to get better at writing without actually writing.
Let’s get started!
I remember watching an interview of an author who basically said he learned how to write by reading.
When you read, your brain naturally intakes the way the author is writing and gives it back to you when you write.
- For example, a couple of years ago my family and I were listening to an epic series called The Chronicles of Prydain (we listen to it like every year or every other year, it SO GOOD). It was right around the time I was starting to write the very first draft of my book, and something that recurred in the book was the word ‘companions’. So, the next thing I knew, the word ‘companions’ was slipping into my book.
Let’s take a look at what happens when you read well-written books and poorly-written books:
1. Read Well-Written Books
Easy and simple to understand here. If you read well-written books, your brain will output the same thing, and you will begin to write well-written books as well!
2. Read Poorly Written Books Properly
Reading poorly-written books takes a lot more brain-power than just normally reading, which I call ‘analyzing’ (I fully explain how to do in step 3, just scroll down to learn about it).
When encountering a poorly written book that you maybe have to read (ex: for a book club), you may as well put it to good use. You can gain a LOT of writing information from reading a badly-written book.
Here’s the process:
- Find what’s wrong with the writing (ex: that world-building is downright trash).
- Figure out why it’s wrong (ex: they created the world for the characters only).
- Think about what they should’ve done instead (ex: created the world like it existed before the characters were born, and give it some backstory and history).
- Learn how you could avoid this mistake and do better in your own writing (ex: I’ve now learned for my book that I’m going to create a world that has enough backstory that kids learn the history of it in schools, like wars, etc. and it’s going to be SO much better).
2. Read Writing Books
I’m hoping to put together a blog post of writing books you should read-something I was asked to do months and MONTHS ago (*coughs* sorry, guys), but right now I can mention some amazing books by authors on writing that you can read:
- K.M. Weiland. Her blog is amazing, and her books are amazing. Guys, I’m not even kidding, she just released a new book TODAY which you can check out here. I’m sure it’s going to be amazing. For now though, I highly recommend her Creating Character Arcs books.
- Jessica Brody. I recommend her adaption of Save the Cat! Writes a Novel. I’m currently using this one along with K.M’s character arc book when I’m plotting my book, and it’s super helpful to combine both their ideas on plot structure and stuff.
- Jeff Gerke. I definitely recommend Plot VS Character for everyone new to plotting, or in the beginning stages of plotting their books. It was a book with basic ideas that really launched my story.
Anyway, that’s just a quick list! Hopefully I will come out with a large one for you guys soon.
3. Read Like a Writer
Guess what: You can read like a reader or you can read like a writer.
- Reading like a reader is when you hop into adventure land and get swept away reading the story.
- Reading like a writer is when you read the story and analyze it for writing purposes.
The con of reading like a writer is that you end up sacrificing full immersion in the story, which is why I suggest reading like a writer on your second go of reading a book, that way you can enjoy it as both a reader and a writer.
The pro? Your writing is going to explode like nothing else.
How to Read Like a Writer
Reading like a writer is all about analyzing.
We all read like readers, obviously, so reading like a writer is something you almost need to train yourself to ‘turn on’.
When you’re just starting out getting your writing mind ‘turned on’, you’re going to have to be patient. It involves stopping while reading and studying a sentence or a word or a paragraph or a writing choice and having to specifically think about it.
Over time, you will slowly be able to recognize thinks authors do right and wrong, and analyze them more quickly.
Pretty soon, you’re brain will fall into such a smooth rhythm of reading like a writer that you can ‘turn it off‘ and ‘turn it on‘ as easy as flicking a switch.
I’ve heard writers say that they do NOT want to read like a writer because they’ll never be able to ‘turn it off’ and read like a normal reader ever again. But don’t fear! Reading like a writer is a pure choice at the beginning, and once you fall into habit you can activate it whenever you want.
So don’t worry, you won’t be stuck in your ‘reading like a writer’ mind for the rest of your life! After enough practice, you can flick the switch on and off whenever you’d like.
Bonus: How to Analyze When Reading
I can say the word ‘analyze’ all day, but really, how do you do it when reading?
1. Pick Something Specific
Let’s say you have this really awesome book you’ve already read before. You love this book because of it’s amazing foreshadowing. Now you pick up for a second read, but this time with your writer’s mind open.
As you read, you try to spot all the foreshadowing hints dropped here and there. Then, you look at maybe how early/late in the book they were dropping those hints, how they did it (dialogue, thoughts, etc), and at what sort of scenes? (action packed, slow, etc.)
2. Look For It All
This one’s a bit more general, and hard to keep track of when reading, but essentially you can look for anything while reading.
There are a million trillion writing things out there you could look for (word choice, foreshadowing, love triangles, character development, theme, conflict, chapter length, on and on and on) and you can look for it all when reading!
- Sometimes you will come across something awesome, like: NO WAY this author’s world building is insane!
- Or you could end up spotting something negative, like: That world building is down-right trash (which I taught you already about from step 1).
You have to continuously remind yourself that you’re reading that book for writing purposes, because when looking for it ‘all’ it can become very easy to slip into just reading the book normally.
3. Write it Down
For me personally, reading with a writer mind gives me blog post ideas, so I jot them down or idea dump them into a notebook to type up into something sort of legible-ish later.
For you guys, you can simply jot down in your notebooks (’cause come on, what writer really doesn’t have notebooks?) what you picked up. You can have it handy while reading (a good reminder to you that you’re reading with a writerly mind) and just jot down maybe a sentence of foreshadowing or dialogue you loved and what made it so good, or a quick note on what not to do for foreshadowing, etc.
Pretty soon, you’re brain will fall into the rhythm of ‘turning on and off’ the writer and reader parts of your brain, and you’ll be able to just intake all the information and input it into your writing naturally.
Takeaway from this post? Read, read read. Read whatever material you can get your hands on-whether it be from nonfiction to fantasy to psychology to self-help to even blog posts, all these books are going to improve your writing one way or another.
(Also, I hate to say it in this post, but, write! Writing is actually the #1 most powerful thing you can possibly do to get better at writing, so don’t use this post to slack off ya guys *glares menacingly at you* This post was obviously not about writing, but really, if you want to retain all that great stuff you’re reading, you need to let your mind practice by writing, and then all that great stuff will fall into your writing continuously from then on).
Have you ever heard of reading like a writer before? Do you think you’re going to try it?
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I hope you enjoyed this post! If you have any questions or thoughts, leave a comment down below.
Thanks for reading!