It is tedious.
Fortunately, there is a way to improve without, well, writing. It is to read. A lot.
Samuel Johnson said, “The greatest part of a writer’s time is spent in reading, in order to write; a man will turn over half a library to make one book.”
Or, Larry King said, “Write. Rewrite. When not writing or rewriting, read. I know of no shortcuts.”
Reading Teaches Writing
I read for pleasure, but I also read to grow as a writer.
It is one of those sublime activities that is both productive and enjoyable. You have to embrace those. There aren’t many of them.
Reading can expose those of us crazy enough to write to multitudes of what we need to improve our craft.
Reading reveals new ideas, new ways of thinking about and portraying character. It shows us different ways to use tone and language and voice. Reading offers us the chance to examine different techniques in plot development and pacing. Even in simple and objective terms, it can expose us to a widened vocabulary.
And it can inspire.
Because there are few things in the world that can inspire like a well told story.
Reading can also help us to find our own space within the wide world of writing.
It is no stretch to say there are a variety of different writing styles. Finding one’s own voice is a critical step in growing as a writer. Reading allows us to explore different voices and styles as we journey towards our own.
The key here is to avoid imitation. It is through exposure that we can learn of and appreciate different voices, but it is only through practice that we can develop our own.
Read Like a Writer
Be practical with your reading.
Many of the best authors write book reviews or speak extensively about the works they read. This is no coincidence.
They rarely read books and put them on the shelf and move on. They dig into books. They analyze them and think about what did or did not work.
It is this critical analysis that helps them improve as writers, and it can help you and me too.
Steven King says “If you don’t have time to read, you don’t have the time or the tools to write.”
Develop those tools.
Read widely and often, because great writers are great readers.