Have you ever finished reading a book and thought, “I could write something like that”? Maybe you could. After all, every published author started somewhere: tentative stories penned for a grade school teacher, personal diary entries, letters to a pen pal. But, if you want to write a novel, where should you begin?
Most good writers are avid readers. Look at the types of stories you read. Do you prefer fiction, non-fiction, poetry, magazines, or newspapers? Maybe you focus on a particular genre: biography, romance, mystery, thrillers, fantasy, or science fiction. Perhaps you like a specific target audience: picture books, adolescent novels, mainstream novels. No matter what your preferences, if you want to be any kind of a decent writer, you will first be a reader.
Read the kinds of works you wish to write. Read the best. Read the worst. Determine what makes the difference between the two. Don’t just read to get the story. Read to learn your craft. How does the author make the story work?
Learn the value of rereading. Watch for foreshadowing, characterization, voice, theme, etc.—all those things your English teacher taught you are there to make the story better, to add a richer meaning, and to give the story depth. Most authors consciously develop these story elements in the rewrite stage. You may not notice them until the second time you read a book, once the initial suspense of the book has passed.
Knowing how successful authors write successful stories is part of learning to be a better writer.