Have you ever asked a published author for advice on writing? Whether you have in the past or are going to in the future, I guarantee that I can tell you the advice that they have given or will give you. Don’t believe me?
They will tell (or have told) you to: read.
Boom. There it is.
No, it’s not magic by which I knew that. I knew that because that is the advice I have received from authors time and time again. Sure, they may give you other tips, but their main one will be to read (and then read some more). Authors are crazy about telling you to read. After several times of hearing this advice, I was going, “Okay, alright, I should read. I do read. I read a lot, actually. Got anything else?” I actually started getting annoyed, because I found the advice repetitive and useless.
I was wrong.
Sure, it took me a while to figure it out, but I’ve come to the realization that the “read” advice authors give is actually really valuable, important advice. And they hammer it in, even though it seems obvious, because they know that it’s the most important tip they can give you.
Reading and writing go hand in hand; there’s no denying that. Reading stories is ultimately what propels you to write stories. It’s like the Circle of Life or something. But for a moment, we can forget that. Why authors tell you to read is because reading makes you a better writer.
“Reading makes me a better writer?” You ask. “Wouldn’t – I don’t know, writing – make me a better writer?”
Well, yes. But reading books helps a lot. I’ll quickly break down three reasons why.
1. Reading helps you to find your writing style.
Each author inherently has their own writing style that is unique to them. You have it, too, but sometimes it’s hard to find exactly what yours is. Reading helps you. As you read the styles of different authors and decide on those that you like and don’t like, your preferences bleed over into your own writing. Now, to clarify, this is not trying to copy another author’s style – that will just turn out sad and pitiful. You can’t be another writer, so don’t try to imitate their style. However, taking tips from it is perfectly fine. For example, if you like the laid-back approach the author takes to addressing their reader through their characters, experiment with making yours a little less formal and a bit more approachable. All your preferences through reading different author’s writing styles will blend together to make a unique concoction for your own writing.
2. Your likes and dislikes in books will give you experience for your stories.
This may be the most prevalent thing I’ve found about reading that influences my writing. Simply what I like and don’t like about a book shapes how I write. So you like/dislike a character. Why? What makes you root for them or wish for their untimely demise? Maybe their compassion draws you to them, and you want a character that is that likable. Or perhaps you hate their whininess, and so you don’t want to push your readers away by making a character with that characteristic. As you read, you pick out different details that you think work and don’t work. Obviously, if you think something is amazing, you’ll want something that amazing in your own story, and you’ll take notes on it. If you find a book absolutely horrendous, you’ll want to determine what was so bad about it so that you don’t make that mistake in your writing.
3. Reading can inspire you in many different ways.
There are a thousand (that’s probably an exaggeration) different ways that other people’s writing can inspire your own. Maybe the concept or plot of a story ignites a plot bunny in your mind. Also, reading a successfully published book can refuel your desire to share your story with the world as well. It reminds you why you started writing in the first place. Also, reading the really horrible books gives you hopes that if a book like that can be published, yours surely can. 😉
On Monday, I’ll touch more on the books (and other forms of media) that have influenced my storytelling, and in what ways.
So, I have to join the ranks of my favorite authors in telling you: read, read, READ!
It’s your turn! Is there anything I missed on how reading enhances your writing? Have you been heavily influenced by reading? If so, how?