The Number ONE Rule for Writing

The NUMBER ONE rule for being a better writer is to READ.

Can I be blunt on this subject? If you don’t have time to read, you don’t have the time (or the tools) to write. Simple as that. — Stephen King

The best way to learn how to write is to study under those who have already done it really well. Reading is a free university accepting anyone who aspires to put pen to page.

Read, read, read. Read everything — trash, classics, good and bad, and see how they do it. Just like a carpenter who works as an apprentice and studies the master. Read! You’ll absorb it. Then write. If it’s good, you’ll find out. If it’s not, throw it out of the window. — William Faulkner

Here’s what I recommend:

Start with the genre that you enjoy writing. Read the classic masters of the genre and the current ones.

Like Fantasy? Read The Lord of the Rings by Tolkien. Read Game of Thrones by George R. R. Martin. Read The Sword of Truth series by Terry Goodkind. Read A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle.

Want to write Historical Fiction? Read anything by Philippa Gregory (The Constant Princess is a good one to start with.) Read Number the Stars by Lois Lowry. Read Gone with the Wind by Margaret Mitchell. I also recommend you do even more reading of historical NON-FICTION under this category too. The foundation of this genre is thorough research of history!

What about ChickLit? Throw a stone, pick an author.

Are you getting the idea?

NEXT get out of your comfort zone and read some classics. A few years back, I challenged myself to read everything that I was assigned in high school because back then I usually opted for just the Cliff Notes! In one year, I read Faulkner, Dickens, Hemingway, Kafka, C.S. Lewis, Salinger, and Steinbeck.

Then, step out of fiction entirely!

Read plays to learn how to write dialogue and action.

Read poetry to learn to craft metaphors, similes, and imagery.

Read Dante’s Inferno to learn about world building.

When you read, read like a writer. Pay attention to scenes you really connect with, then dissect them to figure out why you connected. Notice how other writers use verbs and adjectives. Bank new words into your own vocabulary. Feel the pace of what you’re reading. Read passages aloud to hear rhythm and flow. Read bad literature to learn what the writer did wrong!

Read. Read. Read.

And before someone asks (or thinks it)…

Can I watch the movie? or, I saw it on HBO, does that count?

NO. JUST, NO.

Never judge the book by its movie. — J.W. Eagan

So… WHAT ARE YOU READING??  (Let us know in the comments!)

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5 thoughts on “The Number ONE Rule for Writing

  1. This was the same advice I had been given years ago and makes sense to me.

    However, I have been recently told that I had to ignore what my favorite authors do (Lynda LaPlante, John Grisham, Dan Brown, Jeffrey Archer – list goes on so I’ll stop there), as they are published authors and can get away with breaking the rules, something an unpublished writer cannot.

  2. That is certainly wise…however, I’m not convinced that even all of those authors on your list are completely in grasp of the rules of grammar. But I’ll keep the specifics to myself. 🙂

  3. I love rule number one. Especially since I’ll read everything I can get my hands on. It’s transporting and my favorite super power! I should literally be a multi award winning author –too bad reading is just step one. Great article. It’s refreshing to know I’m doing it right! My favorite book? The one that’s written!!!

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