One of the benefits of studying the art of creative writing is that have opportunities to critique the work of your peers in addition to receiving feedback on your own writing. This I am finding invaluable week in, week out because what we are being asked to do, essentially, is notice. Notice the style of others. Notice the pace of the narrative. Notice the voice. Notice the structure. In other words, pay attention.
So, what do you do if you don’t have the opportunity to study?
Many writers or those in the world of writing will most likely give you the same answer. And it is easy.
The greater the reader you are, the better writer you are.
Through immersion into the written word we enter worlds we may never have had the capacity to imagine ourselves. And in those worlds, we interact with characters and their ways of thinking, acting, responding; their emotions, their highs and lows. Not only this, but their environments and how these impact their decisions and ultimately their stories.
By reading we are giving ourselves so many opportunities to notice and it is this, that as writers, we should be internalising and reflecting upon to constantly ask ourselves how we can improve. With crime fiction being the most popular genre in our country, I would imagine that the majority of crime writers were hooked into the genre by reading Agatha Christie or Arthur Conan Doyle and learnt a great deal from these giants of the genre. Similarly, would chick-lit exist without Jane Austen. I doubt it very much.
So read. And read widely. Don’t limit yourself to genre specific tomes, but search far and wide through the classics, cross cultures and most definitely read through the ages and I don’t mean centuries. Personally, I loved having a cuppa with The Tiger Who Came to Tea.