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 ones I’ve encountered. However, this one the other day stumped me:
“Do all writers read?”
I get that people unfamiliar with the craft might have this curiosity. And indeed, the person asking wanted to know whether or not already famous, published authors (e.g. JK 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 there’s little more valuable to a writer than reading books. Any books. All books. Books within our chosen genre. Books outside our genre. They all benefit the process.
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 right now.
Know the current market, and read books similar to what you wish to write. At the same time, don’t feel obligated to focus on the paranormal if it’s not your cup of tea. Trends shift all the time. You want to be ahead of the game, not stuck trying to pitch the kind of story publishers have already moved on from.
Reading is also a passive way to strengthen our own 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 lets us note style, voice, and word choices among many other elements. World building. Plot planning. Character development. 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 novels. I’ll bite my hat if I’m the only guilty party feeling self-doubt after finishing a good book.
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. Then go back and apply what you’ve learned.
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 of life. 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, funnily enough, hard work. As writers, our brains operate 24/7. Like any artist, “work days” are nonexistent because every day not spent actively 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.