When was the last time you read a good book?
I hear a lot of authors, agents, editors, and other writerly peeps proclaiming the virtues of reading to become a better writer. Now don't get me wrong - I agree. You absolutely have to crack open some books if you are going to write one. And yet all too often I stumble on an excerpt or query from someone who reads a lot that just isn't very readable. I hate when that happens, because these people love books. I know they do. They love dozens of them a year, their GoodReads list is a veritable who's who of upcoming novels.
So where are they going wrong?
I think I know, which leads me to a very important question.
When was the last time you reread that good book?
We escape in good books. We're sucked into new worlds. We fall in love. That's the magic of reading, and you shouldn't destroy it by reading a novel like a textbook the first time. But you should definitely reread that book. Reread it once for plot. Another time for dialogue. A third just for the kissing scenes if it's got 'em.
We don't learn a word the first time we hear it, or speak it, or read it. We revisit that word. We use it in context and maybe then it becomes part of our vocabulary. Build your writer's toolbox the same way. Study Suzanne Collins for pacing, Stephenie Meyer for irresistible love interests, J.K. Rowling for voice, Cassandra Clare for worldbuilding and so on. Apprentice yourself to your favorite writers and learn the craft through study and practice.
Now go reread a book.