“I believe reading is the key to writing. The more you read, the better your writing can be.” –Avi
Writers read, that’s all there is to it. You can’t sugar coat it, downplay it, or make it sound any different than it is. Writers read. In fact, the truth is that writers read a lot. And they especially read a lot in the genre that they like to write. That is the main way one learns to write in a particular genre, and probably why someone is drawn to writing that particular genre in the first place. Because they like to read it. Almost magically, as we read we are absorbing the language, conventions, the voice and the specific structure of the preferred genre. In short, fantasy writers learn to write fantasy by reading it. Essayists read essays. Picture book authors read and study picture books. And the list goes on.
I am not necessarily talking here about reading and formally studying and breaking down a mentor text, although you might want to do that with a piece of writing that you really admire. I’m talking about reading widely in your genre. And, when you come across something that you really like, making note of it so you can come back to it later, during your writing time. When you come back to the page, or the section, or chapter, reread it, but this time get yourself out of your reader’s brain and into your writer’s brain. It is amazing how much one can learn just by closely rereading and thinking about a text that you really enjoy. Sometimes I read it out loud to myself, which slows me down enough to truly notice the rhythm, the word choice, the punctuation, the flow of the writing. If I really make note of a beautiful line, or a technique applied especially well, I might copy it in my writing journal so I can. come back to it again and again.
So if you like to write in a certain genre get yourself to the library right away and start reading!