From Stephen King to the writer next door, there's one universal rule--if you want to write, you must read. The religion of authors dictates that the greater our ambitions, the more novels we should consume. By studying the masters (and the mistakes) I am taught what works and what doesn't.
I spend hours devouring novels from all genres. Thrillers teach me tension while historical teach me setting. I scribble notes on each book as if the author were in my critique group. Over time, I suppose I could become a fantastic critic.
But not a writer.
But not a writer.
Reading is one aspect (a crucial one at that) but so are critique groups. Both of which help us identify errors in our work and others. And that is where many if us get stuck, in the valley of The Empty Page. We become so adept at finding flaws that we forget to write. And even when we do, the fear of becoming what we critique destroys our ambition.
I can no more become an author by only reading than becoming a runner by reading about runners. There are things such as cross training that can enhance my ability but nothing can replace it.
Reading, critique groups and conferences are the enhancements of writing. But there will never be a novel until I actually write one - this may seem obvious to those actively writing or reading but take notice of your fellow "would be" authors. If they're offering critiques but not work, hold their hand and guide them through the painful editing process. If your favorite wordsmith has recommended his opinion on the best seller list but struggles to put two sentences together, meet him for drinks or invite him to your local writers club. Because let's face it, we're in this together, both our inner critic and inner creator.