3 Note-Taking Tips to Get the Most Out of What You Read

Reading is an important part of writing. The lesson often shared is “you read to become a writer” and that the two must coexist. Problem is, if like me, you only read and often read to absorb as much as possible, just in case… oh, I don’t know, the idea for another character comes along, or because you’re working on a chapter that needs a little more fleshing out and hopefully reading a million things related to that will reveal what you need to put on paper…

It’s lose-lose if you’re not taking notes on what you’re reading. So here are the top ways I make reading an integral part of my writing practice.

And as usual, use our handy note-taking printable when reading your next newspaper, magazine article or book.

  1. Read with intention. There should always be a reason for why you’re reading—even if it’s something as quick and dirty as a news article. What caught your attention about the piece? Was it the title or headline, an image or you wanting to waste away time? Note down that intention. If it was a headline, then what about it and after your read the piece do you feel it answered what you sought from the piece? If it was the book cover or news image, then what about it did you like?
  2. Don’t be afraid to write everything. I’m compulsively always writing in books, newspapers and magazines. I write and highlight and fold the pages of all the books I own. It’s fun rereading the book or newspaper clip years later and seeing younger me’s thoughts, ideas and jokes. If you don’t like ruining your book, then our note-taking printable or something similar (even a regular notebook) could do. Just be sure you write out all your thoughts as they flow through, dig into those characters as the ideas of them begin to surface and rewrite sections, too.
  3. Take a break and recap. In a world that’s quick to dive into the next book or story, it’s important to give ourselves the time to review what we’ve read and recap our notes. Elaborate a little more on ideas that you first noted in the beginning; was that main character in the beginning really as bad as you thought? Were there parts in the story you’re still not sure what happened? What part of the story will you rewrite or get rid of completely? Don’t be ashamed if months down the road you’re still thinking of certain characters, or if you find yourself comparing some of the characters you’re read. That’s the job of good writing. Also, if the writers you enjoy are on Twitter, don’t be afraid to give them a shout.

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