The best writing advice I ever received: read what you want to write like.
This idea may be simple, but it’s also a very effective one. Read prose or poetry that inspires you. Read what you want to imitate. After all, imitation is the best form of flattery, right? So, flatter away. And just so I’m clear, I’m not giving you free reign to plagiarize. Instead, I’m saying good art is catching.
I have a friend who is a brilliant graphic designer. And she has an inspiration board, containing anything and everything that inspires her creativity: pictures, fonts, fashion, patterns, people, etc. When stuck on a project, she’ll often update her board, filling her visual world with things that will help her be a better artist.
Writers also have inspiration boards; we call them bookshelves.
In college, my writing professor encouraged us to read poetry for ten minutes before we wrote. She ardently believed poetry, with its lyrically articulate grace, would rub off on our personal essays, prose, or poems. She believed it would improve our diction (word choices) and would open up new and creative perspectives of our own work. And I agree with her.
So am I saying that you have to read poetry? No (although, I hope you do), but I am saying you need to read something good.
Whether it’s an old favorite or a new one, let good books infect you in the best way possible. Let well-written, beautifully crafted prose and poetry influence your writing style. Let witty characters and sublime plot lines feed your imagination.
So, read, read, and then read some more. Read like your own work depended on it. Subconsciously absorb every good word.
Need some recommendations? Here are some of my favorites from my very own inspiration board:
- Poetry: Walking to Martha’s Vineyard, Franz Wright
- Creative Non-fiction: The Liars’ Club, Mary Karr
- Realistic Fiction: Bel Canto, Ann Patchett
- Short Stories: Interpreter of Maladies, Jhumpa Lahiri
- Fantasy Fiction: The Night Circus, Erin Morgenstern
- Science Fiction: Red Rising, Pierce Brown
- Young Adult Realistic Fiction: Saving Francesca, Melina Marchetta
- Young Adult Fantasy Fiction: The Scorpio Races, Maggie Stiefvater
- Fairy Tales: Cinder, Marissa Meyer
- Middle Grade: The Lightening Thief, Rick Riordan
- And Harry Potter for everything
I’d love to hear your recommendations. Comment below with your favorites.
Now, off to the library! The books are waiting.