Writing a book is difficult. Writing a good book is even harder. Crafting a coherent story is more than putting words on a page and naming a character, and there is a decent amount of finesse that you have to pick up and practice. Writing a story requires time, brain work, lots of coffee breaks and brainstorming, and scrapping pieces of your story that aren’t working…if you don’t have to scrap the story altogether and start over.
One of the best pieces of advice I can give other writers is to read, and read everything.
Reading is the best way to understand how to write well. Everyone has their own voice and their own style, so everything you read will enrich your understanding. Read for the sake of hearing someone’s voice beyond the words, understanding why they choose the style they do, and knowing what works and what doesn’t. Read the writing itself, to look at the words individually to see how certain authors put them together to make something beautiful (or not so beautiful).
If you have writer’s block, one of the best ways to cure it is to read. Flush the stale words out with fresh ideas and new ways to say things. Reading will inspire your writing, and when you find something that really draws you in, find out why. Is it the plot? The characters? The setting? Does the author write in a particular style that you like? Find out what it is, and practice that. These little nuggets of gold will refresh and bolster your voice. Reading good books—stories you enjoy as well as stories that are well written—will work wonders for your talent.
If you need some suggestions, here are the books that have impacted my writing:
The Great Gatsby—Fitzgerald has a description of a front lawn, and it’s the most enthralling description of grass I’ve ever heard.
The Catcher in the Rye—I didn’t understand all that you could do with internal dialogue until I read this book by J.D. Salinger.
Harry Potter—world-building, plot, engaging for nearly all ages, timeless. J.K. Rowling isn’t afraid of addressing difficult topics through fiction.
Daughter of Smoke and Bone—I’ve read a lot of teen fiction, and I’ve gotten a lot of flack for it. But Laini Taylor is a boss—her worlds are unique and so are her characters. She doesn’t disappoint.
The Lunar Chronicles—take an old tale and make it yours. Marissa Meyer has compelling villains and gives you a fresh take on old classics. She taught me the worth of a colorful backstory.
The Night Circus—I swear you won’t be disappointed. It’s magical, mysterious, and well written. I love everything about it, so I feel a list would be dumb. Just read the whole book.
Read anything. My bookshelves are saturated with whatever I can get my hands on, and I would encourage you to read whatever sounds interesting without paying any attention to the politics surrounding it. There are a lot of people who swear by literary fiction, and then there are those who are closet commercial fiction junkies. I swear by all of it, because they are all capable of teaching you something about writing.