Since, I've been talking a lot about finding inspiration in movies whether you're studying how an adaptation came to be or just watching something in your genre to get your creative juices flowing, I figured I'd better talk about books as well.
We all have our favorite authors that we come to again and again. Sometimes these authors stay with us for years, other times we grow out of their style/genre/voice, and other times their style/genre/voice changes to something that doesn't resonate with us.
One of the biggest pieces of advice you'll ever hear if you want to be a writer is to read, and read, and read, and read some more. Read within the genre you wish to write and read outside that genre.
Unfortunately in making time to write many writers often schedule out reading forgetting how crucial that part of studying the craft is. You must make time to read as well. For different writers the amount you need to read can vary. But you have to read. Whether you're opening an old favorite, a new book by a favorite author, or reading something entirely new. Just read.
You can study the books you are reading. I know many writers that actively critique and break down books that they think our great to see how does the writer do it. How did this writer craft such a compelling story?
But I'm gonna cover more of the inspiration side of things. For me, you need to read to see what it is you like. How do you like your heroes/heroines? What type of plots do you like? What type of settings? What type of narration?
You can use the story lines, story devices, etc. to help you with your own plot/character/arc problems. Maybe you notice in a book how one author used a sub-plot to resolve the issue in the main plot. Perhaps you could use that same technique in your own book. Struggling with a certain type of scene: description, narration, back and forth dialogue, dialogue between four characters, intimate scenes, highly emotional scenes, etc. Read and look at how other authors do it. This is not stealing (unless, you actually copy the scene, then yes, you are stealing), but seeing how another author uses words, sentence structure, paragraph lengths, POV, etc. could help you figure out your own scene.
Learn about the authors that write these books. Hear them speak if you can or read a blog they are on. I take great comfort in the fact that Nora Roberts "vomits out" her first draft. Jayne Ann Krentz hates writing narrative/description. Linda Howard said, I'm paraphrasing, that the books she writes never live up to the ones in her head, but she keeps trying because maybe one day she'll get it right.