Reading is the hidden tool for writers and as both a writer and a reader I get to enjoy both sides of the literary spectrum. This benefits me, because I get to enjoy the works of other writers, as well as learn from them. This benefits my readers because authors who read regularly are better writers, for the most part, than those who do not. Writer’s Digest, the tips that are part of Writer’s Market, almost every style guide and article written on how to improve our writing, all tell us we need to do one thing above all else: Read.
Why is reading so significant for writers?
For one thing, there tend to be standard conventions within a certain genre that readers expect to see. If they’re not there, or are twisted in strange ways, or even broken, it makes the writer look bad. Readers may choose to not finish the book and, if so, they likely will not buy from that author again.
An even better reason is personal expansion. Great authors tend to evolve over time. They are rarely gifted with the skill set required to write good stories. They practice, tweak, learn how to use techniques. They learn the way words work to elicit responses from readers. All of this requires time, patience, research, and observation. Reading other authors gives us working examples of these concepts and allows us to expand our own arsenal of writing techniques.
A third reason, and I am being personal here, is the fact that most of us began writing because we love literature and stories. We are captivated by characters, provoked by plots, wound up by words, and struck by stories. Reading takes us places we can only imagine. It lets us be heroes or villains, allows us escape from the real world, and keeps us enthralled in another. We can see ourselves as Alexander the Great, Napoleon, Frodo Baggins, Muad’Dib, Joan of Arc, Harry, Hermione, or Ron, Viking raiders, Dragon Lords, King Arthur; well, anyway, you get the picture. Reading makes it easy to be someone else for a while.
This is the thrill of reading, and so it becomes the magic of writing. We get to take others on a journey with us, share worlds of our design, characters of our creation, ideas that move the heart, or shake up the universe. We become captains of a ship with unlimited possibilities. It can go anywhere, do anything, connect with anyone, accomplish the impossible, hold unlimited passengers, and break any speed barrier.
Our obligation as authors is to provide the best possible voyage for our travelers. We must give them the trip of a lifetime, and leave them wanting to be repeat passengers. This requires a unique approach, an engaging story, great characters with whom readers can identify, and a knowledge of story conventions which allows for a smooth and entertaining ride.
Learning the techniques other authors use, by reading their works, is the very best way to master these techniques and fully develop our own writing abilities. We can take classes, and that can help, but only reading gives us the practical insights we need to truly master our craft.
David Cleinman is an Indie Author, Blogger, and Book Reviewer. At this time he has two published novels: Toys In The Attic and Principle Destiny, and MindEater, a Vampire Short. For more information about David, please visit his website. You can also find David on Facebook and Amazon.com.