Reading is the Training Ground for Becoming a Better Writer

By Jody Hedlund, @JodyHedlund

I'm constantly learning new writing lessons from the books that I read. In fact, one of the main reasons I read is to learn. Over the past two months, I've read approximately 14 books. As I read (or listen to the book through my Audible app on my phone), my mind doesn't stop analyzing.

For example, I read Queen Hereafter by Susan Fraser King (a story about Margaret Queen of Scotland) and soaked in the history. The medieval historical details were exquisite giving me inspiration for my own medievals. I was also impressed by the characterization; each character was distinct with traits unique to the middle ages.

And finally I took away a lesson on the subtly of developing and showing character emotions. Yes there are times when we need to name the emotions our characters are feeling. But when we have our characters behave in a certain way that subtly brings the emotion to life, it has greater power to tug the readers' hearts.

Since today is the official release of An Uncertain Choice, I asked writers who've pre-read the book to share some of the writing lessons they learned while reading it.

Tricia Mingerink said: "I learned how to handle a YA love story with multiple interests without turning it into a love triangle. You develop all three of the guys very well. Even though I had a favorite for Rosemarie, it wasn't because the other guys were undeveloped or mean. All three were nice, and I don't see that in YA books very often."

Kim Moss, author of Leaving Nelson, said: "I've learned that a love story doesn't have to just be a love story. It can include action and mystery as well. Not only that, but the character that's most right for your main character may not be the one that's necessarily perfect--but the one that's perfect for her. One that challenges her and pushes her out of her comfort zone. Along with that, I absolutely love the way you close out your chapters with some type of angst or with a word picture that makes the reader NEED to turn the page."

Jennifer Smith said: "One thing that stood out to me--other than the engaging plot and fun characters--was Rosemarie's likeability. I entered a contest once where one of the judges said she wasn't sure if she liked my main character or not. Ever since, I've been paying special attention to how other authors make their characters likeable."

Caitlyn Santi, author of Surrender Falls, said: "The biggest writing lesson I learned was how to better illustrate my characters' faith by showing rather than telling. I've always believed that actions speak louder than words and An Uncertain Choice taught me how to show the reader what matters most to my characters by their actions and how they treat others rather than just telling."

Joleen Graumann said: "You opened my eyes to a new perspective about writing in 1st person. A lot of times it can be difficult to express the thoughts/emotions/growth of other characters in the book solely from the heroine's POV. I loved having those few chapters with the hero's POV too--especially the 1st one when we're not sure which knight is speaking. LOVED it! Such a creative technique!"

Rachel Rittenhouse, author of Discovering Hope, said: "One writing lesson was Jody's ability to create convicting characters that can be learned from and make you want to delve into their thoughts. Rosemarie and all three of the knights had a way of drawing you in and I was almost sad when only one knight could be chosen because I formed a connection with them all!!"

My encouragement for all writers is this: Read, read, read. And while you're reading, never stop learning. Reading is the training ground for becoming a better writer. In fact, I'd go as far as to say that reading (and analyzing as you read) is one of THE most important things writers can do to grow.

Of course, voracious reading doesn't automatically turn us into brilliant writers. But there's something about exposing ourselves over and over to a wide variety of writing styles and techniques that helps us learn the components of good story-telling (and also perhaps what doesn't work).

In the life of an author, every book release is always a big day. But this book birthday is extra special because it's my first-ever YA. To celebrate the release today, I'm giving away a copy of An Uncertain Choice here on my blog! So make sure to fill out the Rafflecopter form for a chance to win!

Also, I'd love for you to join in the Noble Knights Blog Tour over the next month for even more chances to win the book and learn about the characters and setting of An Uncertain Choice. The FIRST STOP is here! For a schedule of the rest of the blog tour, stop by my Events Page.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

What about YOU? What writing lesson (or otherwise) have you learned from a recent book you've read?

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