Reading

Cover of "So Many Books, So Little Time"
Cover of So Many Books, So Little Time

Reading: How Important is it to Writers?

Traci Kenworth

 

The more you read, the better you become as a writer. You’ve heard this before from other authors, people in the industry, etc. But the question is: how important is it?

Very.

When we read, we open our minds to knowledge, entertainment, and more. Some of this “more” is learning about character arcs and how to introduce them and sustain them throughout the story. We learn about the importance of plot, hooks, how to build a book and how to come up with a fantastic ending. We do this by studying what’s on the page.

If we don’t read, how can we know what’s out there? How can we grow to know and love characters that inspire us in creating our own? What adventures are we missing out on? It doesn’t have to be great literature at our fingertips. It just has to appeal to you. Comic/graphic books. Fiction. Non-fiction. This genre or that. There’s something to be learned from everyone.

Nor would I confine myself to reading just one type either. To read out of your area of expertise will broaden your horizon. I read almost everything I can get my hands on. There are a few that I have a hard time getting into—biographies, hard science fiction, and adventure novels. Although, recently, I picked up a copy of The Ice Limit by Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child, and was surprised by it. I usually don’t care for suspense, but give me a Linda Howard or Nora Roberts novel and I’m there.

You see, it all has to do with taste-testing. We do it with our food. We don’t take a lot of something we don’t like/if anything at all, but sometimes we find we like what we try. I can’t imagine sitting in a room surrounded by books and never pulling one from the shelves, never appreciating an author’s words. And with e-books today, there’s a whole new virtual library opening up for us all. Books of poems, horror stories, love stories, stories of hope and promise, it’s all in there. So don’t read a little, read a LOT, because with each book you’ve covered, you’re discovering and pushing boundaries into your stories.

Another book might inspire us to find a solution for something we’re working on. Albeit, I’m not suggesting stealing the exact same idea from someone else’s books but expanding on what we have in our own fictional worlds. How many authors out there have “borrowed” the vampire, werewolf, or Frankenstein image? How many more will? It all comes down to coming up with something original about them. And we do this by learning what’s out there.

Reading is so important in teaching our craft. It’s both a blessing and a curse. A blessing to open our imagination, a curse with so many books, so little time. But every minute spent in a page is so worth it. It sharpens our intelligence, sails us to faraway places, and grows something on the inside of us. So pick up that book and another after that. Go ahead, get inspired.

19 thoughts on “Reading

  1. You are so right, Traci! When I first started writing, I joined a writer’s group that was well-versed in the Sci/Fi and Fantasy genres. For the most part, I had just watched shows in those genres and had little actual reading experience, except for ‘The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe’ and ‘The Hobbit’. I proudly presented stories I’d written set in other galaxies and fantasy worlds, but they as much as said, ‘it’s been done – and much better!’ That put me on the road to reading more, to get a better feel of what’s out there, the genius of other authors, in order to improve my own writing – and it worked!:)

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  2. I agree! Reading is so important and if you don’t love reading, you probably aren’t a writer. I wish I could read faster or all the time, but alas, cloning is not yet possible. Until then I’ll sneak it where I can!

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    1. Lol–I’d love the cloning as well. To be able to get so much done–there are so many good books out there, it’s impossible to get to them all, but I’m going to give it a run for its money along the way.

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  3. I too wish I could read faster. I wish I
    could read every great book twice. In the first round, I would read it as a reader and just enjoy it. The second time around, I would read it as a writer and learn what the craft has to offer.
    I love this post, Traci!! The connection between reading and writing has been the foundation of my literacy program for a few years now. Even my sixth graders have absorbed the connection. Check out the first paragraph in each of these student blogs. Even these 11-year olds see the connection between reading and writing.
    http://wigglesandgiggles.edublogs.org/2012/01/26/fantasy-storys-use-so-much-imagination/

    http://thatsmyblog.edublogs.org/2012/01/26/fantasy-stroies-how-fantastical/

    http://kesskating325.edublogs.org/2012/01/26/the-magical-world-of-fantasy/

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  4. I had to think about this one. I actually get a little miffed when I write a story and someone asks me if I read such and such a book, as if expecting that I MUST have read it before I wrote the story. I believe that a writer certainly needs to read to improve their craft and understand what is out there, but its unrealistic to think we read all the time. I’m a writer and therefore I write. And it takes up a LOT of my time (and I have little as it is). Maybe if i had more time to spare, I’d read more, but alas, life is life. I’m curious as to how much of everyone’s writing time is taken up by reading other works of fiction. For me, its (maybe) around the 10% mark. Everything else is researching, making outlines and timelines, back story, character sketches, and the actual writing and rewriting etc.

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