One of the writing tips I’ve heard repeatedly is read, read, read. About a year back I read Haruki Murakami’s 1Q84. What an uninspiring title, right? The book had been recommended, so I ploughed through the 900 or so pages and kept repeating to myself, I wish I could write like this.
1Q84 wasn’t just a great tale of the main characters navigating different realities, but Murakami’s knack for writing the best similes I’ve ever read. A year later, I decided to reread this book and write out his impressive similes. Not that I intended copying any of them — copying more than eight of an author’s words is plagiarism. But I found the exercise helped me focus on where I could include a simile and if I couldn’t think of one, I read through my Murakami notes and an idea sprang to mind.
Books that carry a great story are not always well written. But 1Q84 was both, although on the second read I realized a better editor should have picked up on parts of the book that were repeated. I recommend you try this exercise with an author you believe is a top writer. Read slowly to discover what the author does that makes their work great and make notes.