To be a good writer, you must first be a good reader.
I don’t recall where I first learned this tip, but I’ve heard several professionals indicate the importance of studying the work of other authors. This gives us a frame of reference for what works well and what readers are looking for in a great novel.
When I first started writing, I dissected some of my favorite novels, trying to wrap my head around why the sentence and paragraph structure worked so well. Over time I’ve begun to understand the magic of word and sentence placement, although it’s much easier to identify great prose than to create it! And not just with sentences, but the strategic use of bits of backstory, points of reference for a particular character, creative ways of describing people, settings, and emotions.
Now I can’t read a novel without a pencil nearby. Many times during a good story I find myself halting to underline a sentence or passage with spectacular phrasing. Sometimes I’m in such awe that I can’t believe I could ever write something so impressive!
Here are some of my favorites:
- DiAnne Mills’ western novel Leather and Lace: “Beneath a snow-dusted, wide-brimmed hat pulled down tightly over his eyes glared a face as dismal as nature’s call to the winter night. Ice clung to his amber-colored mustache and beard.”
- MaryLu Tyndal’s pirate novel The Red Siren: “The bowsprit of the brigatine bowed in obedience as it plunged over the white-capped swells.”
- Sandra Byrd’s Tudor novel To Die For: “The metal teeth lifted high enough for the oarsmen to row us into the Tower’s maw, called Traitor’s Gate. This beast never ate its fill and, like all beasts of prey, ate only flesh.”
What are some of your favorite sections from a novel?