Saturday, 30 April 2022

Writers’ Questions: How Do I Read Like a Writer?

If you’re an aspiring author who’s read any writerly advice online, you’ve probably come across the adage that good writers should read…a lot. But what are the key differences when reading as a writer rather than as a regular reader? Today, in the latest blog post in my Writers’ Questions series, I’m giving you some pointers for getting the maximum value out of your reading time.

Read in the Genre You’re Writing In

Inputs (i.e. your reading material) will impact outputs (i.e. your writing), so read deeply in the genre(s) you’re hoping to the publish in. While you don’t need to exclusively read the sort of material you want to write, picking books of the same genre and age category, published in the last few (~5) years, will allow you to a) hone your craft, and b) conduct market research simultaneously. 

Read the Acknowledgments

Books are usually written by one person, but they’re produced by many. The best way to understand this is to read the Acknowledgments section that ends most books published today. This is where you’ll find the name of your favorite writers’ agents and editors, helping you identify the people who might, on day, be your agent and editor too!

Read the Author Bio

There are many different paths to becoming an author. I have a day job in digital marketing and, while I have two degrees, neither is in Creative Writing. Other writers have pursued MFA programs or made a name for themselves writing short stories before publishing a novel. Reading author biographies is a great way to chart the career paths of the writers you admire and hope to emulate.

Note the Publisher and Imprint

Look at the spine or the copyright page of any published book and discover which publisher/imprint published it. Then turn to Google and do some research. This is an easy way to teach yourself about the industry (who publishes what you write?, which imprints are part of the Big Five?, is there a small independent publisher which could be your perfect fit?). 

Support Writer Friends

Are you in a writers’ group with someone who got published? Are you doing a public reading with a group of other authors? Who are you sharing a table with at the convention center? Spread the love and support fellow writers by reading their books (even if they are outside your usual genre). Being there for others will usually be paid back to your tenfold, as those you’ve supported will be much more likely to blurb your book, do an event with you, add reviews to Goodreads, or boost your presence on social media. Plus, it’s the right thing to do.

Read Reviews

Speaking of Goodreads… Maybe you’re a writer who chooses never to read your own reviews. And that’s more than okay, if you find that best for your mental health. But reading other authors’ reviews can be a great way to understand the public’s tastes and comprehend opinions that differ from your own. I love reading one-star reviews of my favorite reads, and, conversely, delving into five-star raves of books which for me were a “meh.”

Analyze What’s (Not) Working

And what about when reading the book itself? The biggest difference when reading as a writer is that, rather than being swept away by the story, you should pause and analyze why you’re responding the way you are. If a scene is exciting, try to figure out how the writer generated a feeling of excitement. If you’re rolling your eyes? Maybe you’re identifying a trope that’s bordering on cliché territory. Some writers might read a book twice—once for fun and again to unpack why it was fun in the first place.


What topics would you like me to cover next as part of my Writers’ Questions series? Let me know—here, on Facebook, on Instagram, or by tweeting @SVictorianist