I’m often surprised when I hear a writer say they’re too busy to read. Really?
Is a doctor too busy to bone up on emerging diseases?
A network administrator too over-scheduled to learn the latest technology?
The teenager down the street too booked to check out a new video game?
Face it. We all wish there were 32 hours in a day to accomplish everything. Newsflash: that’s not happening. Those who are too busy writing to read just might regret it one day. It’s kind of like living on a diet of junk food. Works for now. Tastes great. But eventually your body is going to crash…and so will your writing.
There’s a bajillion reasons why reading sharpens writing, but here are the top 3:
#1. Reading hones your craft.
Seeing how others structure their sentences, weave their plot lines, or develop characters presents a model (an obviously winning one since you’re reading a published book). Read and study the big name authors who’ve mastered the craft of ordering words, then follow their example.
#2. Reading outside your chosen genre stretches your writing capabilities.
I don’t write young adult, but I read it because of its snappy dialogue. I don’t write horror, but sometimes I pick up a tastefully done creeper because of its shock-and-awe factor. I don’t write epic sagas, but sometimes I’ll page through one to fill up my beautiful prose tank. Then I can use all those elements in my historical fiction to make it a more full-bodied manuscript.
#3. Reading puts your mindset into a different world, allowing you to see your created writerly world with fresh eyes when you come back to it.
Sometimes when you’re stuck on a particular scene, it helps to walk away from it for a time and focus on something else—something like another well crafted story.
Now that you’re hopefully feeling the need to race over to your local library, what books should you invest your time into?
This one is a no brainer. There’s a reason these books fly off the shelves. Pick one up and figure out why.
Granted, the language in many of these can be archaic, but they’re still worth the effort. If you can dissect a classic to understand what makes the connection to a reader’s heart, then you can mimick that in your own work.
Bargain Bin Books
These are the novels nobody buys. The characters are milquetoast. The plot is flatter than the tire on my ’91 Honda. And the writing, well…let’s just say it’s marginal. So why in the world would I recommend you read one of these losers? Because even bad writing can teach you good technique simply by presenting the inverse. Besides which, it will spur on your I-can-do-better-than-that attitude.
Outside Your Box Novels
Don’t get me wrong. I’m not dissing the concept of keeping yourself well read in your chosen genre. In fact, you should be. However, you will grow as a writer if you subject yourself to other styles and more variety.
Barring the occasional looming deadline or real life catastrophe, writers should be readers. But don’t just take my word for it…
“No matter how busy you may think you are, you must find time for reading, or surrender yourself to self-chosen ignorance.”
So…what book are you currently reading?