Since writing involves providing someone (even if it’s just yourself) with reading materials, trying to comprehend what all that entails is an excellent idea for improving your chosen method of self-expression.
But the best reading is reading accompanied by a functioning knowledge of how to understand and absorb information rather than mere skimming. Fortunately for you, the audience at home, the following tips and tricks might from Online College Courses very well make it happen.
People might be more impressed if you read fast, but the more effective strategy — particularly for writers and wannabes — is reading close. Savor the text. Don’t be afraid to highlight, dog-ear pages, and take notes in the margins (unless it’s a book on loan, in which case that’s kind of mean) or a journal to really dig deep into the author’s main points, themes, and techniques. Take as much time as you need and ask as many questions as you’d like. Build those critical thinking skills by actively engaging while reading, not scanning passively and hoping that learning-by-osmosis thing the kids are into these days kicks into gear.
University of Virginia offers up “argument boxes” for encouraging better reading skills in its writers … and anyone who stops by the UVA Writing Program Instructor Site, it seems! For the truly devoted close reader, these rubrics encourage you to break down an author’s arguments into the core thesis statement and the evidence used to support (or, as the case may be, not support) it. Nonfiction writers with a jones for the persuasive should especially pay attention and learn how to properly structure their pieces so audiences follow along, hopefully learn something, and maybe change a few minds in the process.
Leaning on cliches and familiar tropes is inevitable, but you can minimize how often they slip into your work. But you can’t stop the editors and critics from dismissing your pieces as formulaic if you don’t know how the formulas are even structured. There’s absolutely no shame in harnessing a few cliches along the way, of course. Some authors craft truly compelling narratives by playing around with and reframing convention, after all, and pure originality doesn’t actually exist anymore, anyways. Strive for it. Try to avoid filling page after page with predictability. And the only way to accomplish this is to put forth the effort to research what not to do.
Read the whole package:
Many publications today include supplementary materials, like essays and author’s notes, along with the book itself. Don’t skip over them, because so often they provide valuable context and insight you might otherwise miss, even if you close read like a total champ doused in winning and set aflame with triumph. Even though great literature is, in many manners, timeless, it still remains a product of its time. And, in many cases, draws its inspiration from people and ideas you might not otherwise have known about. Giving the additional resources consideration only helps you broadens your knowledge of and appreciation for a literary work.
Try out loud:
In private, of course, unless you’re reading out loud to students, the elderly, the visually impaired, or anyone else consensually listening. This strategy gets your mind more harmonized with the cadence of language, which especially helps writers looking to cobble together believable dialogue. During the drafting stage, reading everything out loud makes for a particularly useful way to detect any awkward sentence structures and grammar or spelling errors. You might not realize their presence otherwise, and catching them before sending your manuscript off to an agent or publisher will only boost your chances at acceptance.
Offer to help edit:
You probably shouldn’t charge for your services unless you’re actually qualified to edit papers, resumes, manuscripts, articles, and the like, but wannabe writers might want to gain some experience and improve their mad skills by assisting their nears and dears with anything they need checked out. Spotting the mistakes in others’ work shouldn’t boost your ego (superiority is most unfashionable, darling. Also? Karma.), but it does train your eye to recognize problems in your own works. Any editing experience you can scratch up makes scanning your own literary scribblings for errors just that much easier.
Listen to Vladimir Nabokov, you guys. And, well, pretty much every other writer and writing teacher worth his or her fleur de sel out there. The best reading strategy out there is — and we hope you’re sitting down for this veritable salted hydrogen bomb of a revelation — read. Anything and everything you can get your hot little hands on, from the back of your morning Cookie Crisp to Pulitzer-winning classics to trashy romances to the subtitles on the latest Palme d’Or recipient. And everything in between. Every snippet of information you soak up, whether you love or loathe it, is a grain of sand your Brain Oyster might crystallize into a literary pearl of your very own!