Research. Read.

Back in college, I had a writing instructor instill in her students – and me: to be a good writer, the writer must read. This is the key research of a writer – any writer.

So, I’ve taken this lesson and been using it for the last couple decades. I read novels on a regular basis. Sometimes, when working on my own stories, I may just read a few pages of a similar style/story/book. This will trigger the creative juices but it also gives me insight into how other writers produce pacing and structure to their story. Call it a confidence builder too.

While at the local Starbucks this morning, I placed a few pages of three novels in front of my wife. I asked her to read each. My goal was to see if she could see the obvious style differences. And the one instance of a writer that may have not been writing very long vs. an author that has honed their craft. One of the authors was a Nebula and Hugo Award winner, one was a standard popular author and one of them was a self published novel on Amazon. She quickly identified the self-published writer and immediately stopped reading. She knew (as did I) that it was so badly written it was hard to continue. Now, I’m not trying to belittle or insult the self-published author but it was very evident to both my wife and myself that this writer has not done the lesson I described in the first sentence of this blog.

So research isn’t just learning about locations, science, careers or the technicals needed to convenience the reader that you know what you’re writing about. Research can simply be reading other authors. After reading similar stories by other authors, analyze and review why the story worked? What didn’t work? Could it be better if something was done slightly different. What kept you reading? Was the characters or the pacing of the story that hooked you? These components will help you in your own writing. It has helped mine.

So my daily routine: get up, read for an hour, think about what I read and then sit and write for an hour. I’ve been distracted from this routine, but my new goal is 365 days of not deviating. Thus, I will not only produce more this year but advance my own style and art….

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