Read A Few Books
OK, more correctly, read a LOT of books.
This all ties back to other Rules where we’ve talked about writing what will sell and keeping your books on the book seller’s hot lists. Yes, as I’ve said, a representative or (sometimes) agent will help you here, and a personal assistant can be priceless, but it still comes back to you actually reading books to see what other authors are doing.
But there’s a big problem here: Who has time to read? We’re all busy writing!
First, like any other task, you need to set aside time to read. Put it on a schedule and your list of Things To Do Today. Make yourself do it.
Second, read faster. The average American reads around 200 words per minute with about 60% comprehension. To read a, let’s say, 40,000 word novella, the typical reader will need about 200 minutes, or just over three hours. It is possible for most people to learn to read faster. It’s not uncommon to see numbers in the 500 wpm range with near 90% comprehension. Take some classes. I personally am one of the lucky ones in that I read at around 1,000 wpm with better than 90% comprehension. That means I can read the above example book in well under an hour.
The last thing is something you may not be able to do for a number of reasons: Get other people to read books and provide you with a synopsis of them, a maximum of one page. I do this within my company, but the bottom line is that I pay those people to read books. Some are editors, others are marketing types, and some are just average people. For example, the lady who is the supervisor of the housekeeping crew that keeps the offices looking pristine reads books for me. As I said, this may not work for some people, but I would bet that you could get a few friends and family members to read books for you and provide summaries if you buy the books for them.
Using the three items above, in a typical week I personally read 17 books on average, and I get summaries of about 50 more. Do the math…every week, I see what the writers of more than 60 books are doing.
The more you read, the more you learn.