Before, when I read books, I used to enjoy them simply for what they were. If I didn’t like a book, I would leave it at that- I just didn’t like it. But now, it’s different. I notice every literary aspect of the book- if I don’t like it, maybe it’s because the characters weren’t very well developed. Maybe it’s because the author threw in huge chunks of unnecessary information and described all the wrong things.
When you notice stuff like that, you’re reading as a writer. When you’re just liking the book for what it is, or not liking it because- well, you just didn’t like it- then you’re reading as a reader.
One isn’t better than the other. They’re just two different ways of looking at the same thing. Obviously, no one has exactly the same perspective on anything- but generally, either you read as a reader or as a writer.
But no matter which way you read, you will pick things up. Even if you’re not consciously paying attention to the way the characters are developed, your subconscious will be paying attention. And then, when you go to write your own story, your writing will have improved slightly. Then you’ll read some more, and then you’ll write some more, and then your writing will have improved again. The more you read, the better you’ll write.
That’s why pretty much every good writer loves to read.
Next time you read a book, try consciously to pay attention to the literary aspects. Don’t analyze the story or annotate the book! Enjoy it, but just be aware of certain things. Think of a couple things the author did really well, and think of a couple things that the author could have done better. Then, apply what you’ve learned to your own writing. (Gosh darnit, this sounds like school!)
Anyways, the point is that it helps me a lot, and I’m sure it will also help your writing to be even better than it is. 🙂