Touching on the most fundamental rule for writers: reading helps make us better writers. Sadly, this simple rule has escaped many in their attempts at becoming writers. It is a mistake no aspiring author/poet should make. Below is a blog post that inspired my reaction on reading as a writer:
Some of the time, reading is what provokes the inspiration to write. I know that my first inspiration to write came in 5th grade, when I discovered the wonderful world of Bruce Coville. He is a young adult fantasy writer who specialized in writing about unicorns. Needless to say, his ability to create a world unlike any in existence lead me to my passion for writing. However, the love of writing never would have developed, if not for my love of reading.
For a few writers, their belief is that writing just happens. You don’t read the work of the competition or important authors before them. They don’t think that taking the time to read is beneficial because they don’t have a love for reading as a foundation. Just think of how many writers you have met that just don’t seem to “get it”. They spend their days sitting at their computer, talking about their ideas, but never seem to get it on the page.
They usually won’t be published, and they can’t figure out why. “No one understands my style, my voice,” they will chant. My response is– “You don’t have any of that if you don’t know what has been written before you.”
No, I’m not talking about the classics, or the stories we reading in high school. I’m talking about influential books for the craft. Authors who have revolutionized your particular genre are vital to understand your own writing. Take for example, my ignorance in the science fiction genre. I haven’t read nearly enough of the classic sci-fi authors. I recently picked up Issac Asimov, and I hadn’t heard of him in great detail before I began searching for great science fiction books to read. Pages into one of his books, I understood the complexity necessary to create a great science fiction book. Within minutes I learned a new facet of the genre I was attempting to write.
Some of the most important skills we can learn as writers come from the time spent reading. While the blog post above states that any reading can help, I’m going to focus on just reading in your genre can shape your writing skills. As I have mentioned before I can break down the types of reading into three categories. Reading as a reader (for pleasure), reading as a student (for analysis), and reading as a writer (to absorb skills/ideas).
The three key elements of the influence of reading, according to the blog post:
1.) Reading with a purpose is useless- His first point is imperative to learning from reading. If you read with something in mind (other than reading the book) you’re going to limit the experience. Reading as you would for pleasure is important because it develops your love of reading.
2.) Language is the key to writing- The easiest skill you can learn from other writers is how to handle language. As budding writers, we are clumsy (well I know I am) with language. We don’t have the experience to use our words wisely. So, to gain the experience we read what the best writers have done. At the same time, reading bad use of language teaches us how NOT to write, which is equally important.
3.) Read suggestions from other writers-This element is especially helpful is bringing variety to the normal type of books your read. It also allows you to converse and connect with other writers. This bond is crucial to learning not only from the books, but from the writers who recommend them.
I will add only a few additions to his list of how reading helps your writing.
4.) Read contemporary books, and ones in your genre of choice- By reading contemporary books (not necessarily on the best-seller’s list) you learn what books are being chosen by the general audience. You also learn what openings are available in the market for you particular style or ideas. Reading the books in your genre (competition) allows you to understand your audience in an intimate level. For example, werewolves and vampires are HOT in the fantasy genre. While they have always been fairly popular, it is because of one contemporary series ( Twilight ) that has driven trends in the genre. It is vital to know where you fit now in the market as well as what readers look for in stories being published. Make sure you take the ideas of the competition in stride. It’s not meant to change your writing to what they’re doing. You can find the differences an advantage as well as what you could write differently.
So, go out and read. Read old books, new ones, and ones your friends tell you are good reads. Speaking of, Goodreads.com is a great place to compare books you’ve read, and get suggestions from people across the globe.
Happy writing AND reading!