One of the first pieces of advice you will ever receive as a writer is to read. Subconsciously, reading helps you learn to write in a variety of ways: you pick up grammar skills, you learn a variety of writing styles, you learn about story structure, character development, etc. All these are wonderful skills that every writer needs to develop. However, reading is a solo activity in most cases, and completely internal. Two writers could read the same novel, and each come away with totally different opinions, skills, thoughts, etc.
One piece of advice I wish I received when I began to pursue writing is to read… and join a book club. Join a book club, start one, whatever… then suggest a book you have enjoyed, or maybe a book from a genre you are interested in writing, etc. Then go into the meetings and take notes. Take note of what people enjoyed, but especially what the majority disliked. Did it line up with what you thought? If it did, great. If not, even better. Regardless, here’s a list of things to learn from book clubs and why:
If they like a book, listen and learn why
Did they like a character? How was he/she developed? Did they like the end? Was it satisfying? What led up to it to, to make it so satisfying? Take notes on what they liked, then figure out why they liked it. Then you can take those elements and apply them to your own writing.
If they dislike a book, listen and learn *harder*
Did they hate the character they were supposed to root for? Was it because he/she was underdeveloped? Did they even finish the book? Why not? Pacing? Were they a fan of the genre to begin with? That last question is probably one of the most important to consider. I am not a big fan of crime novels, so, of course, I am not going to look favorably on it. However, I am a huge fan of fantasy novels. It’s rare for me to dislike a fantasy novel. There must be a pretty good reason for me not to enjoy a fantasy novel, even on a superficial level. Keep that in mind.
Try some new genres
I think every writer kind of falls into a niche. I love writing in the fantasy genre. I love reading fantasy, but I am kind of stuck in a fantastical loop. Of course, there is nothing wrong with having a favorite genre, but I do think there can be a lot to learn from other genres. Use the book club as a chance to explore. Try on a new genre. What makes it different from your favorite genre? Can you use some of the new elements in your own writing? Heck, maybe you’ll end up loving the new genre! Explore and have fun.
Listen to how your book club peers describe a book
This is how the average reader will review your work. Every writer should be a reader, but not every reader will be a writer. I have found there is a distinct difference in how readers talk about books, versus how writers talk about books. Take in that language. Remember how the negative and the positive sounds. If you are serious about writing, you are going to hear those voices a lot. Enjoy it, and learn from it. Heck, use it! Enjoy being a reader. It’s easy to forget that’s how most of us started.
Learn to make friends, lots of them!
Reading is a lonely activity and writing even more so. Use this time to enjoy literature with others. Laugh, talk, read, and write. Enjoy the moment of being in a group. It isn’t often we get to do that.
Of course, book clubs will help you grow as a writer, but they can really help you grow as a person, too. I encourage anyone to try one at least once. If nothing else, you may just make new friends and find new books to enjoy!
Thanks so much for reading! What do you think? Have you been in a book club? Did you enjoy it? Comment below and let me know.