Read a Lot to Learn to Write Well

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It’s obvious that you should write a lot if you want to become a good writer. What’s not so obvious is that you should also read a lot. Reading is how you develop mental models of what good writing looks and sounds like. If you want to improve faster, go beyond just reading and read and learn intentionally.

Don’t just read. Read intentionally.

You read intentionally when you plan your reading. You read intentionally when you make conscious efforts to learn to write better. Don’t leave learning to chance. Concentrate your attention and your effort.

Read good stuff. Ignore or abandon bad writing.

You learn how to write well from studying good writing. You can learn what not to do from bad writing, but that’s not much help. You won’t learn what you should do.

Find the best work in your genre and read that. Set the bar high. If you happen to start reading a piece of bad writing, abandon it. Every moment you spend reading less than stellar material is a moment you’re not learning to get better.

Analyze good writing to learn why it works.

Work to find out what makes good writing good. If you want how to learn how to integrate research and stories find writers like Bob Sutton who do that well. If you want to learn how to structure your chapters, look at several successful writers. Ask yourself what things they have in common and what they do differently.

Read outside your genre to develop ideas to try.

Some of the best ideas for improving your writing will come from outside your genre. If you write business books, analyze successful genre fiction authors. Mystery, western, and romance writers keep their readers coming back for more. Figure out how they do it.

Gather your learnings together.

Figure out a way to bring your learning together. Create a separate file of good examples. Keep a writing skills journal where you record your observations and ideas about what to try.

You can do this. Great writers had to learn the craft. Every good writer was once a not so good writer and before that, probably, a pretty bad writer. Writing is a craft that you can master. But you’re more likely to master it if take control of your reading and learning.

Takeaways

Read to develop mental models of what good writing looks and sounds like.

Don’t just read. Read intentionally.

Read good stuff. Ignore or abandon bad writing.

Analyze good writing to learn why it works.

Read outside your genre to develop ideas to try.

Gather your learnings together.

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