One of the best ideas I’ve picked up from articles online and from writer’s magazines is to study other people’s writing. You’ve heard it before, but we can learn from the classics and from the New York Times Best Sellers. Most of you probably won’t want to mark up your fiction books. The answer is to purchase paperbacks at thrift stores or garage sales. Use them to analyze the writing. You can make notes in the margins and circle or underline. My favorite is a combination of notes in margins and color coding what I mark. If it sounds daunting to do that through a whole novel, then do it with the first chapter and select a few others that include the last chapter.
When I’m reading one of my favorite authors, I get involved in the story. For any analysis, I have to go back and read it from a writer’s point of view. I keep in mind character development, what hooks me as a reader, how an author develops suspense, voice, point of view, and how to write plot elements. These will get you started, but there are more you’ll probably think about. I use a different colored pencil for each aspect I’m studying. Try it and I’d love to hear back from you what you think of the method or share how you learn writing skills from other fiction books.