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Thursday, March 15, 2012

The Best Way to Learn to Write

The best way to learn great writing, or one of the best ways I should qualify that with, is to READ great writing. Here are a few books that helped me in certain areas:

Characterization: A Prayer for Owen Meany

Description/Setting: A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, The Kite Runner

Story: Havah--The Story of Eve

Romance: Jane Eyre

Symbolism: Lord of the Flies, A Wrinkle in Time

Voice: Memoirs of a Geisha

Now, that's just a few off the top of my bleary-eyed head. What novels have you read that helped you hone a skill you were needing help with? Please share!

Gina Holmes is the founder of Inspire a Fire and Novel Rocket. Her debut, Crossing Oceans, was a Christy and Gold Medallion finalist and winner of the Carol Award, INSPY, and RWA’s Inspirational Reader’s Choice, as well as being a CBA, ECPA, Amazon and PW Religion bestseller. Her sophomore novel,  Dry as Rain, released in 2011. She holds degrees in science and nursing and resides with her family in southern Virginia. She works too hard, laughs too loud, and longs to see others heal from their past and discover their God-given purpose. To learn more about her, visit:


  1. That's how I began, too. I have always been a voracious reader. I haunted the library, growing up, and read at a 5th grade level when I was in 1st grade. My mom had been a teacher, which helped, but she started to love of story in me. Even when I played dolls, I created stories for them to act out, ones that carried over for a week or more.

    But even when I began to write, having read all those great books, my writing didn't stack up, until I read books on the craft of writing and compared those to what I read in great literature. THey matched. :)

    Finally, I got great critique partners (waving, G). But the love of story and reading good novels was the spark.

  2. Those other things are important too. I'm finding after having read all those how to books and getting edits and critiques, I'm going back to the great writers and appreciating their techniques in a way I couldn't quite grasp before.

  3. Love this! Brooklyn and Jane Eyre are two of my all-time favorites. I think I might have to go through and see which ones really made the difference for me, its a great idea.

    Sarah Allen
    (my creative writing blog)

  4. Sometimes, I think you can be too well-read in the wrong genres. For instance, I LOVE classics and would write that way if I could, but in this day and age that kind of heavy description/slow plot with few hooks wouldn't fly.

    To be honest, when I read the Twilight series (don't hate me! grin), I realized you could write a book that moves quickly, with minimal "fancy" other words, just write so it flows. I don't write exactly like Meyer, but I do think there's something to be said for simplicity.

    But beauty of language still draws me in quickly, like Oscar Wilde's The Picture of Dorian Gray. No one writes like that anymore--short attention spans!

  5. I haven't read Twilight, but I can understand the freeness of learning you can just tell a story without trying too hard. That's a good lesson.


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