When talking about writing, one of the first (and most often repeated) things you will hear, is “If you want to write, you need to read lots”. This is true of almost anything; if you want to succeed at creating something, you need to familiarize yourself with the end result. One person cannot possibly learn all the tricks, or make all the mistakes. So why not take advantage of those who have come before, and let their errors, and triumphs, be your guide.
If you want to learn to write, learn to read. By that, I don’t mean learning the letter A and then B and what sounds you can make by putting them together. I mean really learning to read the story, and not just the words.
You need to learn how to look for the literary devices the writer has used and, more importantly, to what effect. Ask yourself if this was successful. And then ask yourself why. When you can learn to pick out the clever tricks – and the clumsy failings – your own writing will begin to reflect this.
Learn to spot the catalysts and character developments, the motives and the flaws. Look for the stereotypes and the tropes, and what drives each character, and to what end. If you find yourself completely hooked by a particular character, see if you can identify what traits and aspects caught your attention and held it. Likewise, if you are struggling to care about a character, try and single out the factors that left you underwhelmed.
Find the recurring motifs and themes and see if you can figure out why the writer chose them. Were they effective symbolism, or were you left scratching your head, wondering what was the point of it all?
Watch how the tension builds with the slow but steady release of exposition, and how a scene can bring you to feel a particular emotion, often without ever having to tell you how to feel.
And most of all, learn to hear the words and not just see them on the page. For this, reading aloud can be very useful. Listen for the repetition of sounds and the changes in sentence length and structure and notice how they alter the tone.
What voice does the narrator adopt in your mind? What led you to think that?
Words are written with the intention that they be read, so if you seek to learn how to write (and I applaud you if you do), what better place to start than by learning how to read?