How gratifying it is to read a book that grabs your interest from the start and keeps you turning pages. Such books cause you to forget you’re reading; you become fully engaged with the story and characters. The movie in your mind is fluid. No matter the genre, such an experience is pure bliss for readers.

This is the experience writers want to create for readers, or should want to create for their readers. However, there’s one vital thing new and “young” writers should keep in mind: writers who achieve this with their books work very, very hard to make writing seem easy. A great deal of effort goes into making this happen.

What does this have to do with what reading does for writers? A lot. But it requires you to do more than just read a book. In fact, it may help at the start if you read a book for your own enjoyment the first time then read it again to pay attention as a writer. Here are some things writers who read can focus on, to their benefit.

Vocabulary: Reading strengthens your vocabulary. It also can remind you of excellent word choices you may not think about or haven’t thought about in a while. Make a note of any words that resonate for you, whether this relates to developing characters or plot. You might even create separate lists for words that relate to physical descriptions, body language, settings, emotions, and so forth, and keep them on hand when you write.

Plot Devices: Observe how good writers develop plot, how they set pace, how everything that happens works. This includes how characters react. Never have a character do anything, especially that’s out of character, just to fit something into the plot. If you have to do that, you have a plot hole regarding plausibility that needs to be fixed.

Dimensional Characters: Notice what causes characters to stick in your mind or hold your interest. What makes you care about them or detest them? Notice how the writer develops characters over time, rather than all at once. Pay attention to what you come to expect from characters, and how they surprise you.

Punctuation: Pay attention to how sentences are structured through the use of punctuation. When are colons, semi-colons, ellipses, em-dashes, and commas used? What about hyphenated words? Notice how seldom, if ever, exclamation marks are used. What about single and double quotation marks, especially for dialogue? Be aware there are several significant differences in punctuation usages between American and British writing. You don’t want to confuse them.

Proper Format: You’ll see there is only one space between sentences, not two. Two spaces were needed when people used typewriters. Now that computers are here, use one space only. This is industry standard. Also note that paragraphs are indented and that there are no spaces between paragraphs. Note how scene changes and scene breaks are handled. Note how dialogue is handled: each character’s dialogue lines are always indented the same as a paragraph.

Pace: Sentence length creates rhythm and influences pace. You want to mix what’s considered long beats and short beats, without overdoing either. Longer sentences slow pace, which is sometimes desirable. Shorter sentences, including effective sentence fragments, speed pace. This is usually more applicable for action scenes, which you want to happen at pace. What you want to watch for is that no action scene takes longer to read than it would take to happen. Here are examples of beats:
Mary stood. She smoothed her hair and tucked loose strands behind her ears. She paused. Then she slapped Mark’s face. (Short, long, short, long)
Mary stood. She tucked loose strands of hair behind her ears, and then she slapped Mark’s face. (Short, long, long)

Setting: You always want to give readers a sense of place. Seeing how a number of excellent and best-selling writers handle setting is beneficial. How much description is included? Notice how the writers blend setting with plot and character development. You’ll never please every reader. Some like long, detailed descriptive passages; some don’t. Use what you feel provides enough description for the story, without slowing pace.

Let what you read stimulate ideas—your own ideas; don’t copy. How many times has the original story of Cinderella been rewritten in various ways? Or stories by Shakespeare? It’s said there’s nothing new under the sun, just new ways to write about it. You can learn by observing and studying what writers of the books you love and admire do to make their stories fulfilling, entertaining, engaging, or thought-provoking. But do keep in mind that time and effort went into choosing every word you read, likely through several revisions.

I wish you the best with your writing and progress.

Author's Bio: 

Joyce L. Shafer provides developmental/substantive editing and book evaluation services, especially but not solely, for new writers. Details about her services, plus her e-book for aspiring and new writers—Write, Get Published, and Promote and her special reports—How to Get an Agent for Your Book or Choose Self-Publishing Instead: Tips, Lists, and More and How to Get Your Book Started: Plan Your Work Then Work Your Plan are available at .