How To Read Like A Writer — And Why You Should

Writer’s Relief
3 min readMay 17

Writers who want to improve their skills often focus on grammar, characterization skills, tone, and other writing techniques. But one of the best ways to perfect your craft is also one of the most enjoyable: reading! Whether you stay within your preferred genre or try something new, reading can introduce you to styles and ideas you can employ in your writing. However, reading to collect specifics for your writing is very different from reading simply for pleasure. The experts have some tips and advice on how to read like a writer — and why you should.

How To Read Like A Writer

Annotate: Grab your highlighter, pencil, or sticky notes: it’s time to annotate! When you’re reading and come across writing that makes an impact — a great piece of dialogue, an interesting way to convey backstory, a unique choice the author made — note it for future reference! You can even get creative and assign different-colored sticky notes to specific writing elements.

Reread: Now that you know how it ends, reread a book, story, or even a poem to uncover insights you missed during your first reading. Notice how the author builds tension, creates empathy, or describes settings. Choose a work you enjoyed reading the first time and study it to learn what makes it so likeable. Here are some books we’d love to study and reread!

Analyze Each Scene: Break the story down to its most basic elements. Whether you choose to break the book down scene by scene or chapter by chapter, reviewing the story in smaller chunks helps you better analyze the work. Find its strengths and weaknesses and learn how to incorporate that knowledge into your own work.

Study The Characters: If you struggle with writing relatable characters, examining characters written by other authors can help inspire you! Pay close attention to how character flaws are introduced and the way the characters change based on what happens as the story progresses.

Broaden Your Horizons: Step outside your comfort zone! If you write romance, read something in the fantasy genre to find out more about world building. And a historic fiction writer may learn how to liven up a story by reading thrillers. Reading in a genre different from the one you write in will give you a better idea of writing trends, and you may find some techniques you never would have considered!

Ask Questions: As you read, ask questions. What is the author trying to convey? Who is the audience? What are the author’s strengths and weaknesses? What makes the story compelling? These are just a few questions you should keep in mind as you read. Asking and answering these questions will force you to slow down and thoroughly review the work.

While reading like a writer is much more involved than reading just for fun, you’ll come away with a deeper understanding of what the author wanted to say and how it was skillfully accomplished. And this knowledge will help you become a better writer too!

Writer’s Relief

Author’s Submission Service Est. 1994. We help authors reach their publishing goals with targeted submissions to literary agents and editors.