If you want to be a good writer, you need to develop good taste. This doesn’t mean you should become a literary snob but that you need to expose yourself to good writing to learn what makes it so.
While each genre has it conventions, almost all writing in Western civilization shares similarities, especially in plot structure and craftsmanship. These two aspects of writing, in particular, get at the core of what Western readers universally consider “good storytelling,” regardless of the genre.
You probably already are an avid reader. And if you consider a story or novel you wrote to not be very good, it’s because you are aware of what is quality writing.
The key to successful writing is to allow this innate sense of good taste to mentor and shape your skills. You can learn from what you read by consciously thinking about how other authors did it.
Developing good taste can’t be done by reading whatever is out there, though. Just as a master chef wouldn’t learn what is a quality dish by dining everyday at McDonalds, so you’re not going to learn to be a great novelist by reading hacks, online news articles, or nonfiction.
Instead, read the master storytellers. Begin with those who are considered the best in your genre. Not all may be to your liking (Consider that three of the masters of the science fiction genre – Heinlein, Asimov and Bradbury – have radically different writing styles.), but you’ll probably discover some fantastic authors along the way. Next, expand your knowledge by reading the masters of a genre similar to yours. A science fiction writer might pick up action-adventure novels while mystery writers can grab police-crime thrillers. Finally, read the masters of literature. Homer, Shakespeare, Hemingway and many others all have greatly influenced modern writing and every genre we read today.
So, uncertain how to solve a problem in your story or of what to write next? Then crack open a book by a master. The answer is there, waiting for you to discover it.
My name is Rob Bignell. I’m an affordable, professional editor who runs Inventing Reality Editing Service, which meets the manuscript needs of writers both new and published. I also offer a variety of self-publishing services. During the past decade, I’ve helped more than 300 novelists and nonfiction authors obtain their publishing dreams at reasonable prices. I’m also the author of the 7 Minutes a Day… writing guidebooks, four nonfiction hiking guidebook series, and the literary novel Windmill. Several of my short stories in the literary and science fiction genres also have been published.