Write Better by Reading More

Read More to Write Better – Why Writers Need to Read

Why Aren’t Writers Reading More?

Why writers need to read - to develope better writing practices and support the writing community.

There’s a bad habit forming lately with some writers, even published ones. They admit that they don’t have time to read. That seems so strange to me. I’m pretty sure one of the first lessons writing teachers emphasize is that we need to read more to write better.

You can’t be a writer if you weren’t a reader first. 

First we learn to read, then we learn to write our own stories. So, why do so many writers stop reading? Typically, it’s because they don’t have the time to open a book. I get it. We writers struggle finding the time to write, let alone open someone else’s book.

(Read Easy Hacks to Write More)

But, if we don’t read, we lose connection with the publishing community. The very community we struggle to be a part of.

Writers are readers first. We collect books or novels and pour over stories that consume us. I didn’t realize when I was a kid that reading was actually investing in my writing career.

Us writers fall in love with the written word, then we want to create stories of our own. We are creatures who copy what we like.

So, why do some writers say they don’t read much?

Reading isn’t supposed to stop just because we’re suddenly able to write our own stories.

Accomplished chefs will still sample other cooks cuisine. Painters and sculptors still observe and appreciate other artist’s work. Singers and dancers still listen and watch other performers.

Why would a writer stop reading?

There is so much we can gain when studying the writing of our peers.

  • Style: You won’t know if you prefer long-winded or concise descriptions unless you compare with the examples of others. 
  • Techniques: There’s more than one way to describe the long-haired musky dog with hot breath and constantly drooling tongue. We can learn new techniques from other writers. 
  • Practices: Formatting evolves all the time. If you don’t read from other writers, you could miss out on what’s new and risk becoming archaic. 
  • Inspiration: You never know when lightning will strike. 
  • Popular: If you want to be published, you need to know what is out there. You need to know what other writers are succeeding with and what publishers are accepting.

Humans learn by example. As writers, we may feel like a different species at times, but we are no exception. If anything, writers are probably even better at being sponges because we have the patience to read (which, apparently, a lot of other people don’t have). 

Books to Read to Write Better

Writers learn from the examples of other writers. So, we are also likely to pick up habits of the authors we read. That could be a good or bad thing. You don’t want to pick up bad habits from poor writers.

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So, should we only read novels we enjoy and admire? If you don’t like something or feel its writing is poor, it could be a bad influence on your writing. Then again, maybe you could learn from the mistakes of others. 

REASONS TO ABANDON A BOOK:

  • Boring: If I’m really not enjoying a book, I don’t want to put in the time to read it. I have a long list of books I actually WANT to read. Life is too short to waste on bad books. 
  • Bad Influence: If you’re the type of person who’s a super sponge to what you hear and read, you may need to avoid books of poor quality. You don’t want to pick up on bad habits and integrate them into your own writing. 

I used to feel guilty about abandoning books, but I’ve now come to the conclusion that I’m giving up on bad books for a good reason. In contrast, I’ve also found that there is also a good reason to read a poor book.

REASON TO READ A BAD BOOK:

  • Critiquing: Practice your editing skills. If you don’t like something about a book, take note of why you don’t like it. You should understand what you don’t like, so you can avoid writing those same mistakes.
  • Comparison: Look at the style and tactics of the unsavory book and compare it to your own. Are you certain you aren’t guilty of making those same mistakes?

In all honesty, I’d say just browsing the bad example should be sufficient. I don’t think it’s necessary to finish the entire thing necessarily.

Once you realize what’s bad about a book and what to avoid in your own writing, make note of it and walk away.

Writers Must Read – Period

Not only do we learn from other writers when we read, but we learn what books are currently popular. That knowledge is essential if we want to get published and have our work taken seriously by publishers and agents. 

  • In a book proposal we need to compare to similar stories 
  • We need to know what our audience expects/wants
  • We are supporting other writers (Don’t be a hypocrite or selfish writer/author. If you want people to read your books, you should read others’, too)

I went through a dry spell when I didn’t get to read and barely had time to write for a couple of years after I had my daughter.

When I finally got back into reading, it opened my eyes to all of the nuances, details, and plot points I was missing in my own work.

When I picked up my reading habit again, my writing improved. I was able to pinpoint the style that made books so appealing to me, which allowed me to try to emulate those styles in my own writing, in my own way.

Helpful Books (for my genre)

What is your genre? What do you like to write? Admittedly, I like to read certain books that I don’t necessarily want to write. So, I incorporate plenty of good books in my own genre of writing to ensure I’m keeping my head in the game.

Personally, I’m a fan of different points of view and I like to play with varying perspectives. (Read my summary of Long Stories Short).

Therefore, I try to read books that incorporate those same techniques.

  • Gone Girl
  • Cinder
  • Mystic Bayous 

What are some of your favorite books? Stop and think why you like them so much and what you can do to emulate those authors’ style. 

Why did you like it?

Is there anything you did NOT like?

What made the books so good that you were hooked and couldn’t put it down?

Print VS Audiobook 

Some people are not comfortable with the idea of being read to. However, writers are encouraged to read their own work aloud to hear the flaws and flow of their creations. 

(Someone recommended using Google to read their work…)

I highly recommend listening to unabridged audiobooks. It’s a great way to get a good influence in your head.

Support Other Writers

Do you want readers to read your work? Don’t be a hypocrite. If you want support, you better be ready to reciprocate.

You can’t be a writer if you weren’t first a reader. Don’t let that bookworm habit die. For the sake of your own WIP and future novels, pick up someone else’s book and keep on reading. 

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5 Comments

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  3. vkahleranderson says:

    I absolutely love what you had to say here! Your example on how how even accomplished chefs will try other chef’s cooking is very true. I know that dancers do watch others, and learn from watching and studying, so it shouldn’t be any different for a writer to learn, the good and the bad, from other writers. It is the only way to really learn. I love to read different genres, and I always read as if I am studying, and not only for the pure enjoyment of being absorbed by a story. Thank you for your insights and recommendations!

    1. Lol! I’m so glad you liked my analogy! I think much of our creative arts can be compared to one another in regards to how we practice and improve our crafts.
      And I definitely read books differently when I’m studying them, as opposed to just reading for enjoyment. At the very least, I think writers unconsciously benefit from the influence of a well-written book.

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