Only two more habits left to talk about. A quick review of numbers one through five first.
Highly Effective Authors…
1. 1. Write every day.
2. Understand the business side of publishing.
3. Learn how to take criticism.
4. Set goals and meet them.
5. Learn how to self edit their work.
And now, on to habit 6.
6. Highly Effective Authors read. A lot. And not only do they read a lot, but they read books both in their genre and outside.
Why is this habit so important?
A. Because authors who read tend to have a better handle on the market, and are therefore better able to find their niche. It’s extremely difficult for a writer to know what work is being published if they aren’t readers. And without that knowledge, it’s impossible for them to consider how they might fit into the market.
B. If you write category romance, it’s particularly important for you to read the lines and get a feel for each one. Lines change. Evolve. It’s virtually impossible to “get” them if you haven’t read several recent titles.
C. Writers gain inspiration from other authors’ work. Reading, among other activities, gets the creative juices flowing.
D. Writers learn about plotting and storytelling from published stories. I’m not suggesting a writer “steal” a plot from a published book. But what I am suggesting is that writers learn about plot arcs and storytelling from published books.
E. By exposing him/herself to other genres, an author can bring a fresh spin on a tired subgenre. Take a look at the huge number of genre-blending books that are being published today. Yes, editors need to be able to fit a book into their current lists, and so a book that completely breaks all rules and fits nowhere is likely to be rejected. But injecting a fresh spin inspired from an outside genre can (and has!) lead to a breakout novel for some authors.
Now that I’ve listed all the reasons why it’s so important to continue reading when you’re writing, I’ll address the primary reason why writers (especially new ones) stop reading.
They can’t turn off the internal editor and enjoy a book the way they used to.
I’ve been writing professionally since 2001. I was published in 2004, under my other pseudonym. I’d say it was in the last year that I was finally able to sit down and read books in my genre and enjoy them, without the internal editor nitpicking them to pieces. It takes time to shut that obnoxious voice up. But that’s okay. You still need to read. Outside of writing, reading is the most important thing you can do to develop your craft.
So head to the library or the bookstore. Grab a book and settle in for some great reading. Don’t worry about the little voice in your head screaming about punctuation or adverbs. Just keep turning pages, absorbing the story.
Here are some questions to ask yourself as you read (and hopefully distract you from the little stuff):
1. What kind of character is the protagonist (hero and heroine in a romance novel)? Do you care about the character? Why or why not?
2. How does the author use conflict to keep the reader turning pages?
3. How does the plot progress? Do you see some kind of framework or structure?
4. (Romance) What scenes does the author use to develop the romance? And how are they balanced/blended with the external plot?
5. What sorts of tools does the author use to maintain the pace in the middle of the book?
6. How does the author tie up each thread of the story?
7. Is the ending satisfying? Why or why not?
8. If you had written this story, how might you have told it differently?
There you go, the sixth habit. The final habit seems like a no-brainer, but it’s not as obvious as you think.