Someone was asking the other day what traits a writer should have and what kinds of things should they do to learn more about the craft. There are many but today I'd like to concentrate on one very important thing all writers should do.
We're told to read books about writing and I fully agree with that. As important as that is, I'd add something else, maybe even above that in a list. Read as often as you can. Read the books in the area in which you would like to write. If you want to write Historical Fiction, drown yourself in books of that genre. Make a comparison of the various well-known authors who write this type of novel. Read more than one book by an author. Find the ones you like best and read as many of their books as possible. As you read ask yourself why this person's books appeal to you. What is in them that captures your attention? What makes you come back for more? Is their style one you like or does it put you off?
If you're a poet, wallow in poetry books and magazines. Find the poets you like best. Figure out why you like them. What is in their poetry that speaks to you?
Do you write memoir? There are plenty of memoir short stories and full length books as this has become a very popular genre. Look at the ways in which the various authors present their story. What did they do that stands out? What parts of the book will you remember for a long time?
How about sci-fi and fantasy writers? Or Bodice Ripper romances and erotica? If that is what you want to write, read lots of it. Same way with those who want to write for kids. Go to a bookstore or library and read dozens of kid lit in the age group for which you want to write. They change with time. A number of years ago, mood books were huge, and then they slid off into the night, seldom to be seen again. Read the newest ones, read the classics and learn what is appealing about each.
All readers need not be writers but I firmly believe all writers should be readers.
I do know one writer who actually dislikes reading. She'd rather write ten stories than read one. As much as I love her and the stories she writes, I don't understand why she doesn't read. I suppose there are a few others like my friend, but they surely are in the minority.
The one problem I find about reading a lot of other writers is that time becomes a problem. I dearly love to read but I know that it takes away from my writing time. Even so, I wouldn't give it up. And neither should you.
One more thing read for sheer pleasure!