Gentle Readers . . . and Maxwell,
When I took the class required to become an accredited writing tutor, our professor told us that people don't learn to write by diagramming sentences (thank God for that because I don't remember how to do it).
Instead, people learn to write by writing.
I want to go one step farther: People learn to write by reading.
I've heard many professors and writers say that the best way to learn to write is by reading the great stylists. Of course, they meant Thackeray.
I don't think you have to read Thackeray, but I do think you need to read great writers and read a variety of genres.
Are you in love with mystery novels? Then put aside your mysteries for a few months to read Dinner At The Homesick Restaurant by Anne Tyler.
You read every vampire story that bites you? Try Lolita by Vladimir Nabakov.
Read widely. Read something to which you've never been exposed. Never read The Great Gatsby? Check it out and know what it is to write lyrically.
Expand your book horizons. Soak up Bel Canto by Ann Patchett.
How many books have you read from the Modern Library's choices and Readers' Choices for The One Hundred Greatest Novels?
It's not that I want you to stop reading your favorite books. It's that I don't want you to become stuck in a rut. And although imitation is supposed to be the sincerest form of flattery, don't try to write like your favorite writer. Learn from writers of so many genres and styles that you're able to write like yourself.
Infinities of love,
How I approach writing: