1. When you don’t like a book, consider why. I don’t finish every book I start. I used to try, out of some strange sense of duty or something, but I found that attempting to slog through books I didn’t enjoy made me read more slowly and less often. I’d stop reading to avoid the book, and that didn’t do me any good. Now if I don’t like a book, I put it down. First, though, I think about why I don’t like it. Is the prose awkward? Do the characters lack motivation? Is the beginning too slow? Is the action too pointless?
2. When you like a book, also consider why. It’s easy to speed through the pages of a book you love, but it’s helpful to pause every once in a while and think about why it’s pulling you in.
3. Read reviews. Not necessarily of your own books—that’s a topic for a different blog post. But read reviews of books you’ve read, both ones you’ve loved and ones you’ve hated. Read five-star reviews, one-star reviews, and everything in between. This is a great way to compare your own reactions with the reactions of others. You can also get a feel for what tends to annoy readers.
4. Read a variety of genres. You should read in the genre you write, but you should read other books, too. Each genre has its own strengths. There’s no reason an author can’t study love interests from romances, surprise twists from mysteries, and pacing from thrillers.
5. Read the classics. They’re classic for a reason. Read them and think about what has made them stand the test of time—but keep in mind that markets change, so what sold a hundred years ago wouldn’t necessarily sell now.
Laurel Gale lives in the desert with her husband and a band of furry monsters that might actually be ferrets. She enjoys reading novels, playing board games, and learning about everything from history to science to grammar. Her debut middle grade novel, Dead Boy, comes out September 29, 2015, from Random House/Crown Books for Young Readers.