One of the universal pieces of advice for aspiring writers is to read as much as possible. I’m always thrilled with this advice, because I am a crazy voracious reader and this gives me even more justification for it – I’m “working” right?
I think you do unconsciously absorb things just by reading a lot of books – almost an osmosis kind of thing. What you love and what you hate, what works and what doesn’t, all find their way into your brain to be stored and sorted when it comes time for you to write your story. In addition I think reading widely can prevent you from getting tunnel vision or becoming too much of a mimic of any one particular style.
I also think you can learn a lot from a close analysis of certain books. For example, I dug into Maggie Steifvater’s Scorpio Races because I admired how strong & beautiful a role the setting played in the book – and the slow building love story. I underlined, wrote margin notes, and learned some really practical things from the close read. Of course, I only did this after I’d read the book for pure enjoyment a few times – I wouldn’t have wanted to lose the forest for the trees, so to speak.
So I’d like to think that every writer I’ve ever read has taught me something about how to write a book. Thank you.