Although the writing project I was working on at the time of preparing this article seems to have stalled due to the hot weather, I thought that I’d talk about one of the essential parts of being a writer today – reading regularly.
Even though this is a fairly well-known piece of writing advice (I mean, there’s a famous quote about it from Stephen King), I thought that I’d look at a few of the many reasons why reading a lot is important if you’re a writer.
1) Finding your voice: Simply put, one of the best ways to find your own unique narrative “voice” is to read a lot. Being exposed to lots of different narrative voices from different authors will help you to learn what does and doesn’t “work”, in addition to helping you to work out what types of narrative voice (eg: fast-paced, slow-paced, descriptive, informal, formal etc..) really fascinate you.
Plus, immersing yourself in fiction is one of the best ways to pick up a narrative voice- in the same way that being surrounded by people who speak in a different accent can sometimes lead you to “pick up” their accent. However, this is also why it is very important to read lots of different authors.
If you read too many books by the same author within a short period of time, then this will turn your writing style into a second-rate imitation of the author that you’re reading. So, reading lots of different authors means that your style will become a much more unique mixture of different styles.
2) Every book is a writing guide (if you think like a critic): There’s an old saying that critics are just failed writers. Whilst this may or may not be true in some cases, it isn’t a general rule. In fact, thinking like a critic (and maybe even writing a few book reviews) is one of the best ways to improve your writing. If you learn how to think like a critic, then your writing will improve.
Why? Because you’ll start looking at your own writing in the same way you look at books by other authors. Yes, you’ve got to be careful about being too much of a perfectionist (since this can cause writer’s block) but knowing what makes a story good, mediocre or terrible from reading lots of books will help you to see your own fiction in a more objective way, which will result in better fiction.
In other words, when you think like a critic, every book you read is a guide. A book can show you techniques you’ve never thought about using before, it can show you what kind of mistakes to avoid, it can make you think about things like pacing and structure etc… I could go on for quite a while.
3) Immersion: Reading enjoyable books in your favourite genres regularly will make you think of fiction as an “everyday” thing, in the same way as other entertainment mediums like television and videogames might be. However, unlike those things, writing is a lot easier to get into. After all, it just involves using words that you already know. You don’t need lots of expensive equipment or anything like that either.
So, immersing yourself in fiction regularly can make the idea of writing it feel less intimidating. Whether this is because you read a book that is so terrible that you think “I can do better“, or because you read a really cool novel that reminds you why you are a writer, or because you just start to become more familiar with the idea of written words being just as (or, when they are at their best, even more) dramatic/gripping/interesting etc.. as other entertainment mediums.
Anyway, I hope that this was useful 🙂