Long before I knew I wanted to write books, I loved to read. When people ask what do you like to do, hands down for as long as I can remember my only real answer was read. And I love talking to other people about what I read. Some of my best friendships have formed out of a mutual love of books.
One of my very favorite books about writing is On Writing by Stephen King. And he talks about how much he reads. And he reads a lot. Nearly as much or more than he spends on writing each day.
I think when it comes to reading, there are two different ways to read as a writer. (This is aside from reading craft books). First you read to enjoy, and see what else is out there. This is important because it exposes you to different styles, and different ways to tell stories, and different viewpoints.
And then there is reading to learn. When there are books that sing to me, that keep me turning the pages, that grab me from the beginning or that turn me inside out. I'll read them again and again. I try to figure out what's working and why.
How did the author build tension in the story?
What did she do for the pacing? How did she start and end each chapter?
How were the relationships built? What does the character interaction say about each character including the narrator?
What did I like about that character? What makes me hate that one?
Each author writes differently. There isn't a magic formula that makes up an automatic best seller, but there are common threads that run through great books. Every scene matters. Every interaction shows us something new. The book pulls you in through the pacing, and keeps you wanting to turn the page. No character is absolutely perfect.
How does reading improve your writing?