How does that work, you ask? I've found reading to be very useful, depending on my mood.
- Some days, it helps to read something bad. You toss the book down, get on your "Heck, I can do better than that" horse, and voila!
- Other days, you want one that's super. You sit back, content at the end, and think to yourself, "Man, I want to be able to leave people with this same feeling. If I'm ever going to get this good, I'd better get working on my own stuff." And off you go.
- It's good for getting the pacing in your own work right. Sometimes it's tough to start writing cold and get a fast-paced action scene flowing well. Get yourself in the right frame of mind by reading a portion of another book with similar pacing to what you're trying to achieve. (That's what I did this week)
- Having problems with dialog? Pick up a favorite book and study how they did a particularly good section. How much description did they put in? Is yours getting bogged down with too much detail on facial expressions, stomping around, or throwing hands up in the air when the dialog itself conveys the emotions adequately to some extent (don't yank out all the description, but some of it could probably go).
So there ya go. Give it a try next time you're stuck. But don't get lost in other writer's great work. You've got to get your own done too.