Last Friday I sent my second manuscript to my editor so now I've officially finished my second book. I celebrated with champagne, feeling happy that I'll soon be able to publish my work. But if you're thinking I am now looking forward to a well deserved rest you're wrong.
Instead I am busy researching my third book. I made a decision at the start of the year once I had finished writing I would devote all my free time to reading the genre I would like to write. But what I'm doing now is far more complex than just picking up any old book and casually reading a few pages here and there. I am devoting a whole day to just reading a few chapters. This might not sound like much and it wouldn't be if I was just skimming over the words. But once I have finished reading I am making detailed notes about the plot line, structure, character development and so on.
All writers agree that if you want to write good stories you must read good stories first. But you must also analyse every sentence, understand every word and realise why the story is going in one particular direction. It is not enough to read to be entertained, you also need to read in-between the lines.
Reading different stories also helps you form new ideas of your own. Making notes from best selling books from well established authors is not the same as plagiarism - plagiarism only happens when you copy a substantial chunk word for word. I make notes to help my understanding of the story - it's never my intention to copy every single detail. It's also worth stating here that ideas cannot be plagiarised - plagiarism can only cover words.
So this is why reading is so good for writers. Reading helps you to spark ideas of your own that may have come from a particular story. But your ideas go off in another direction instead of following the same thought pattern. You can make up your own mind whether the book made a good story or you can state what you would have done differently to make the story better. Either way, reading helps your brain become familiar with stories, making you a more developed writer.