Whether you’re a reader of Stephen King or not, you have to give the man his due—he’s doing something right. Highly successful, critically acclaimed, instantly recognizable, and a one-of-a-kind voice. Not to mention mega-sales.
We should all be so “lucky.” (I hope you recognize the dripping sarcasm in that word. No one gets where King is by pure luck. The man worked his rear off to become the success he has become. Kudos, Mr. King!)
Yes, there always is one of those. Amidst all the work…and joy…and frustration of writing, the master of horror makes time to read.
And so should anyone who wants to write.
A writer’s toolbox that does not include “reading” contains a big empty space—and only one thing fits it. Reading.
What made you want to be a writer in the first place? I’d be willing to bet that one hundred percent of writers—if they’re truthful—will say it’s because they love to read, and that love of a good book spawned a desire to write on of their own. Or they read a book and thought, “I could do that.” Or they read a book, and wanted to change the ending, or the beginning, or the desperately drowning middle. So they did.
Core truth: Reading inspires writing.
If you think you don’t have time to read, make the time and read anyway.
Seems pretty clear-cut to me, but for those who think anything important should have a “list” to validate it...here’s your list.
Why Writers Should Read...
1. Reading inspires writing. We all need steady doses of inspiration. Getting lost in a riveting storyline triggers something in a writer’s psyche. It flips the “want to write” switch. Who doesn’t need that extra bit of “oomph” now and then?
2. Reading improves vocabulary. While journeying through the pages of a good book, you’re learning new words even without knowing you’ve learned them. It’s like having a dictionary and a thesaurus open in your brain, and flipping through the pages while you’re caught up in a compelling storyline.
3. Reading teaches writing. While you’re exploring the world between the covers of a book, you’re also absorbing a number of valuable lessons. Subconsciously, you’re noting narrative structure; absorbing the use of dialogue; checking out the development of tension and tone; picking up new ways to describe body language and expression…and so on.
4. Reading keeps a writer aware of what’s already out there. No one wants to create a copycat novel. More importantly, publishers don’t want to publish one. Reading widely keeps a person informed on current publishing trends—and eliminates the frustration of writing what’s already been written.
5. Reading teaches how not to write. It’s a fact…some books are poorly written and/or edited, and force a reader into farming—meaning they have to plow through each page. But for a writer, even those books can be beneficial, by showing the wrong way to write and increasing his/her determination to never produce a book that will teach writers how not to write.
6. Reading is great practice in evaluating/analyzing others’ work. Noting their good points and bad ones. Picking up on new techniques. I inevitably find myself mentally “critiquing” while I read—especially if the writer hasn’t managed to hook me into the story. When you’re asked to critique for a writing partner, you’ll find you already know a little about how it’s done.
7. Reading widely familiarizes a writer with various genres. How can you know what you really want to write if you’re not familiar with more than one writing direction? I write romance, and yes, that’s what I love to read, as well. But I also read mysteries, suspense, horror, fantasy—and anything else that strikes my fancy when I’m choosing a book. And I learn something from each of them. If I had to pay Stephen King for everything I’ve learned about writing from reading his books, I’d go bankrupt. Laughing through the pages of Cathy Hake’s and Mary Conneally’s books shows me how to weave humor into a tale. Mary’s novels, along with Vickie McDonough’s, make me think maybe I could write an historical romance. But I’d never consider those things if I refused to read outside my own genre.
8. Reading educates. Even “fluff” books can contain information and knowledge that is new to you. Because it is new to you, you’ll take mental note of it and file it away for future reference, even if you don’t realize you’ve done so. One day, for some reason, you’ll remember it, pull it out and dust it off with some vague comment, like, “You know, I read something about that…somewhere. If I remember correctly, this is how it works.”
9. Reading helps develop a person’s “self.” We are what we read. Ralph Waldo Emerson said it like this: “I cannot remember the books I’ve read any more than the meals I have eaten; even so, they have made me.”
And last, but far from least...
10. Reading is an escape. When writing becomes a chore, and each word is “delivered” with all the blood, sweat and tears of releasing a child from the womb…read. It relaxes the brain, takes the reader to a different time and place, and opens up the avenues of imagination.
Writing isn’t always a pleasure, but reading almost always is. As a writer, you need that bit of pleasure…and the escape into another world will renew and revive your imagination so you can write again—with pleasure.
© August 2014
I'm a writer...why should I read? Find out on Write Right!
DELIA LATHAM is a born-and-bred California gal, raised in a place called Weedpatch and currently living in the lovely mountain town of Tehachapi with her husband and a spoiled Pomeranian. She enjoys multiple roles as Christian wife, mother, grandmother, sister and friend, but especially loves being a princess daughter to the King of Kings. She has a "thing" for Dr. Pepper, and loves to hear from her readers. Contact her through her website or send an e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org. Find her also at the following online locations:
Living the Write Life (blog)
Amazon Author Page