How to Use Active Reading to Become a Better Writer
Many famous authors such as Stephen King support active reading as a form of perfecting your writing skills. So instead of simply reading a book for your own entertainment, active reading will allow you to dive deeper into the text and pick up on different styles used in the work in front of you. If you are a writer, the chances are you enjoy reading. You have also been influenced by various books since your early childhood without even realizing it and they shaped the way you write today.
So how can active reading help you become a better writer? The trick is to learn not view a certain book as a whole but to focus on different elements you want to incorporate in your writing. For instance, if you have issues with introducing dialogue in your stories, pay close attention to those parts of a book. Here is how to properly use active reading and transform your writing style:
Choose the right inspiration
If you are interested in literature, you know about the great writers who changed the world with their work such as Shakespeare, Joyce, Woolf, Austen, etc. They knew how to create a timeless story and their writing style is undeniably impeccable. The classics should be your first choice if you want to become a better writer. They can teach you a lot about character development and structure so include them in your reading list.
Make reading obligatory
Active reading is a habit and you need to do it on a daily basis. Sometimes we start to read a book, get distracted, and completely forget about it. The best way to finish every title you want to analyze is to make a reading schedule. Create your own reading challenges and reach the goals. You can either make a list of books you want to complete in a month or set an alarm to remind you to read at a certain time of a day. Creating a reading journal is another way to keep yourself accountable and you can also use it for jotting down various ideas.
Exit your comfort zone
A good writer is versatile so it is crucial that you stop reading two or three genres and expand your literary knowledge. There is no need to stay confined within the similar styles of writing so don’t be afraid to experiment. If you only read young adult books, explore the fantasy or horror genre. On the other hand, science fiction fans should grab a couple of romance titles. It will do wonders for your imagination and you might even find your new favorite book.
Analyze the details
Going deep into a book means you need to pick out a narrative element, focus on it, and do your analysis. It all depends on your personal goal as a writer. If you don’t know how to fully develop your characters, keep an eye on the progression in the book you are reading. Take notes or draw diagrams if it seems easier for you. You can return to them, make a better assessment, and then apply that same knowledge in your own work. It is also important not to get overwhelmed so always choose one narrative element to follow throughout a single book.
It is all about the words
Skilled writers know how to use words and phrases in order to get the reader more involved in a story. Analyze the writing and the use of language in a book you are analyzing at the moment and you will notice these small details that paint a wonderful picture. If you are focusing on words, keep an eye on the way a writer use them within their sentences and phrases. Do you like a quote from a book and think that it might help you later on? Don’t just highlight it – write it down!
Borrow the techniques
Completely copying someone else’s work is not a good idea because you need to have your own writing style but you can borrow the techniques that seem useful to you. You can always go add your own details to improve a story and make it unique. You will remain productive, work on your project, and learn from successful authors all at the same time.
Make it fun and different
If you love making small notes on the margins of your books, coming up with your own symbol code can add some playfulness in the process of active reading. For instance, you can mark an interesting passage you want to read again with an exclamation point or add a question mark next to an unknown word. So instead of writing whole sentences, leaving a symbol will not take too much time and you will be able to get back to your reading immediately.
Don’t forget to love reading
You shouldn’t view active reading as a chore. Yes, it can make you excel at writing but if you don’t feel like finishing a certain book because it is boring, stop right now and pick up something enjoyable. Your learning process will not end there because you are still experiencing someone’s work which is inspiring on its own without the deep analysis.
Being a writer means that you never stop exploring or learning. So if you want to grow as an author, you need to work on your skills. Active reading is something that will help you out in the long run, especially if you managed to identify your weaknesses because this will allow you to focus on a certain aspect of a book and inspire you to improve.
Approaching active reading as a valuable lesson will change your style and make you a better writer. Don’t be afraid of borrowing different structures from well-known works, as well as taking lots and lots of notes. And not to forget that discovering different genres will make you smarter and capable of better critical thinking. Reading is an amazing habit that will help you grow both as a person and an author.