You do not need a degree in English or journalism to be a writer, but you do need to be a reader. At least, to be a “good” writer you need to be a reader. And you need to read wonderful books and terrible books. Why? Because you learn from both.
Whether you’re a person who says, “I’m going to write a book one of these days” or have written dozens and dozens of books, don’t stop reading. Read the classics, literary works, contemporary, traditionally published and self-published. Read as a writer, not as a reader. Think about what holds your attention and what parts you skip over. And if you skipped over a part of the story, why?
Consider what you want to write. Read what’s being published nowadays. How is it formatted? Is there a lot of dialogue? Lots of white space on the page? Or are there long paragraphs? What words are commonly used for the type of book you are writing? Easy to understand words or do you occasionally need to look one up? And if so, does that add to your enjoyment of the book (you learned something) or detract? What is the length of sentences (long? short?). Is the grammar proper (what you learned in school) or does the writer use fragmented sentences?
Analyze how the story is constructed, if it’s written in first person or third, present tense or past, close point-of-view or multiple points-of-view (which can also be close or distant). Or, is the story told by a narrator? Do the characters seem real? Can you suspend belief for events that don’t seem real or reasonable or do you shake your head and say, “Wouldn’t happen.”?
Are the spelling errors and grammar errors acceptable to you (even well edited books have them) or are there so many they stop your reading pleasure?
Reading can show you how various genres and publishing houses use or don’t use italics, commas, parentheses, em dashes, ellipses, etc.
If you’re still stuck at home, READ. If you’re working and come home exhausted, pour yourself a beverage, sit down, and pick up a book, your iPad, or e-reader and READ. It’s amazing how much you can learn by reading.