One good effect of getting rid of cable while also shifting my schedule to being more of an early bird is that I’ve been reading a lot more. And that has reminded me of just how important reading is to being a writer. If you want to write better, read more.
Read the classics in your genre, the works that established the tropes.
Read the recent award winners and bestsellers, so you’ll know what’s currently setting the standards. Read new releases from debut authors so you’ll know what’s been bought recently from authors without a track record. Read the books that are getting a lot of buzz. Seek out things no one is talking about and try to figure out why.
Read outside your genre, especially in genres that cross over with yours. If there’s going to be a love story in what you’re working on, read romance novels. If there’s an action/adventure element, read action/adventure books and thrillers.
Read biographies and memoirs and books about psychology to get a sense of how different kinds of people think and behave.
Read history to get a sense of the patterns of events, actions, and reactions. Also, more about how people think and behave.
Read books about subjects that may come up in the stories you’re writing, such as science, food, textiles, war, diplomacy, revolution, technology, etc.
Read books about writing. Read books about business, marketing, advertising. An author is essentially an entrepreneur, so you’ll need to know these things.
Really, just read. You’re putting words and sentences and ideas into your brain, and it will all be processed for fodder. If you don’t like to read, if all this sounds like too much work, then it will be hard for you to make it as a writer.
For me, one of the best things about being a writer is getting to count time I spend reading as “work.”