Tell someone you’re a writer, and you’ll get all sorts of questions thrown your way. “What’re you working on?”, “Are you published?”, “Do you know [famous author]?” are among the common list. However, this one the other day stumped me:
“Do all writers read?”
I get that people unfamiliar with the craft may deem it a legitimate question. After all, the person asking was curious whether or not already famous and published authors (e.g. Jo Rowling) themselves read in order to gather inspiration.
Source of Inspiration
Writers gather inspiration from everywhere. Small events in our daily lives can trigger massive world-building epic series. But the value of reading books ourselves is in no way cemented enough in our minds.
If you want a successful novel, you need to know what’s currently trending in your target genre. Wizards and vampires are hot topics for young adult novels. Because of this, any story set in a paranormal or fantastical setting will be easier to pitch and sell nowadays than something following the line of Sisterhood of the Travelling Pants.
Know the current market, and read books similar to what you wish to write.
Similarly, reading strengthens our writing, as Judy Rose discusses:
“Reading the work of good authors helps you develop a sense of how effective writing is constructed, and gives you a glimpse of the skill and artistry that goes into it.”
The quote is from her post, “Ten Ways To Become A Better Writer.” Click the link. ‘Read’ is top of her list, and for good reason. Even if your opinion of a piece is negative, you’ve learnt what not to do in your writing. What better way to improve our skills than to study that which engages (or fails to) our own imaginations.
Reading allows us to note styles, voices, and diction choices among many other uses. All of the important stuff that hooks readers in are the skills we need to latch onto and master when we sit down to write.
Polished Stories Started Rough, Too
Mind you, there’s a risk in reading polished, finished novels, and I’ll bite my hat if I’m the only guilty party. Since the stories we read off bookshelves are final drafts, we might feel that sense of self-doubt when drafting our own novel.
Keep in mind that all first drafts are utter dren. Yes, writing is an art to some degree. But moreso, it’s a craft, and it’s only through the process of revision that a story truly takes shape. So note the things you feel work best while reading, and stash those tips in the back of your mind until you’ve completed a rough manuscript.
Books are a writer’s window to the world. It’s how we communicate and learn what does or doesn’t work for our target audience at a particular time. It’s also because of books that most of us desire to become writers in the first place.
The rest of Rose’s list is equally important. Writing is more than putting words to paper (or screen). Always be aware of the intricate details. Listen to people’s conversations so you understand and can replicate how it flows. Know all there is to know about language and grammar, so you can speed up the revision process by avoiding more mistakes than necessary.
Writing is–news flash–hard work. As writers, our brains operate 24/7. Like any artist, “work days” are nonexistent because every day not spent actually writing is one of brainstorming, preparing, outlining, observing, or what-have-you. But the end result is always worth it to see a project through its many development stages.