I’ll let you in on a secret: writers love to read. The inverse relationship is not always true; readers do not always like to write.
Let’s say you are lucky enough to find yourself planted in both camps. You read. You write. Now, the moment of truth: is that a blessing or a curse?
There are times I read books and I am just floored. I mean, swept-away-jaw-on-the-floor wowed. It seems so effortless, so magically transporting. And so I think (perhaps erronously), “hey, I can do that.” So, I roll up the sleeves and curl the fingers over the keyboard. I watch the cursor blink. Uh…yeah…maybe not.
But since I am a pretty tenacious person, I plod through anyway.
And I recall those mesmerizing words and sublime transitions, ones that are so subtle they hardly feel calculated. Effortless. There. That word again. Interestingly, the effort is there. You just don’t see it. And that is what defines good writing.
I read a lot. I probably throw back a book a week. Five days. Some are undeniably better than others. Some blow it out of the water. And some, well some make me feel as if I am drowning in a world of….I don’t know…muck. Sophomoric talent. If you can call it that.
So, the next time you’re reading something and you’re in complete adoration as to how the author makes you feel as if you aren’t even reading, take note. Study those words not just for story purpose but locking phrases, transitions, emotional reactions into your noggin. Pause from time to time asking, “Do I have a scene in my WIP that needs a little TLC?” Perhaps Your transition is rough, but This Author does it masterfully. What technique does he use? Can you rearrange your words to mimic a similar rhythm? I bet you can.
One pet peeve of late–okay, maybe always–is cliched verbs and attaching unoriginal (and sometimes unnatural) emotional responses of characters. It reads like big time cheese. For example, “My heart felt like it had it’s own jump rope as I ____.” Um…no. What about descriptions, “I looked into his smoldering eyes.” Also, no.
And poorly executed transitions. “Just then,” happened to be one I read over and over ad nauseum. Get creative, think differently.
How would Stephen King show something sinister? What would Nicholas Sparks do to make you feel twitterpated? What great comparison would Jodi Picoult use that felt original, yet natural? Try to think like a writer.