I know how frustrating it can be, you finally get to meet your favorite author in person or talk to them via the internet. You spend hours -maybe days- talking yourself up to finally, finally ask them how they write such compelling prose? How were they able to render your heart into such a catastrophic mess of emotions and pain just begging for more? How did they formulate a world so tangible, you can’t believe it isn’t real? You expect a profound answer, you expect them to unlock the secrets of the writing world, you expect them to give you a ticket to success, to make this writing thing easier, and they say, “Because I read.”
You’re heartbroken, deflated, frustrated beyond all spectrums of the word. You feel duped, lied to, played a fool. “Reading?” you scoff, figuring they just want to hold the secret for themselves. Like authors are this secret society of mages who laugh at all the mortals trying to emulate them, and you can only become one of them if you abandon your family and friends, cast aside your job, and go on an epic quest of self-discovery, only to find you must sell your soul to the monstrous gatekeeper, and only then can you be deemed worthy of the answers.
Sorry, no epic journeys, or monsters, or soul-selling – well no, that’s not true. Writing a book is like selling your soul, so you at least got that right. Point is my frustrated, disillusioned friend, reading is the answer you’ve been searching for this whole time. Don’t give me that look; it’s the truth, and here’s why.
Reading Helps You Understand Your Genre and Target Audience
You love writing Sci-fi, right? Or Fantasy, or Contemporary, or Historical Fiction, or whatever it is you like to write. You create this awesome story that you’ve worked on for months, formulated by your blood, sweat, and tears, and maybe a little soul-selling. You’re so proud of this manuscript, so you query agents time and time again, but you’re always rejected. It hurts. “They don’t understand my vision” you claim. Or maybe it’s because you’re querying your epic fantasy about robotic unicorns flying through space to save the galaxy under Contemporary Fiction instead of Science Fiction where it belongs?
Reading helps you understand the genres and what concepts identify them as said genres. Robots and space tend to be concepts in Sci-Fi as they focus more on the scientific side of things, whereas magic and fairies tend to be concepts of Fantasy Fiction. Furthermore, you need to understand the audience in which your story is going to be reaching. Your robotic unicorns saving the galaxy story probably belongs in the children’s Sci-Fi genre rather than the adult section, as most adult stories don’t tend to have talking animals (unless you’re Orwell and use talking animals to depict the pig pen that is the US Government). Read your genre to understand your genre. Understand your genre to better query your work. Simple as that.
Reading Helps You Understand What Works and What Doesn’t
The whole point about writing is to write for yourself. You never want to write to get paid, because otherwise, your passion for the story doesn’t come through. It’ll feel like a mundane boring job and your writing will sound like it is a mundane boring job. So, you write for yourself, therefore, you read for yourself too. Pay attention to the plot line and how it unfolds, dissect it like your frog from 8th-grade science class and see what works for you and what doesn’t. What parts of the book made you feel emotions? Note it. Were there parts you struggled to get through? Note it. Were you rooting for your favorite character when they were trapped in an epic battle with robotic unicorns? Note it.
Pay attention to what works for you and doesn’t work for you. If it didn’t work for you, do it better, or not at all. Reading to find what works best for you helps you see how best to construct your own story to make it the best you want it to be. If you don’t know what’s bad, you can’t decide what’s good, now can you?
Reading Helps Expand Your Vocabulary and Understand Tone of Text
Now this one is pretty much a given. Everyone learns this in school, but if you want to speak/write better than you have to read more and read widely. Pay attention to the type of vocabulary used, the descriptors and how they made you feel, how they painted the world or set the scene. Follow closely to how that word set the mood and should it be different how would it have changed the mood of the scene altogether? Furthermore, vocabulary helps with mannerisms in characters, their dialect reflects the kind of person they are. If they talk posh and crisp with a deep voice, then they’re rather well educated, stuck-up, or a member of high society. If they talk with a thick accent not native to that land, then they’re from somewhere else and their way of speaking reflects that.
Dialogue, descriptors, adverbs, they all give motion and life to the story. Read so you can tell the difference and apply those skills to your own work.
Reading Helps Get The Idea Cogs Turning and Sparks Creativity
Another question authors frequently get asked is where do they come up with their ideas? Well, by reading of course. If you read five books and loved different concepts in each, you could take those concepts and turn them into a story all your own. That’s the point. Reading constantly and widely helps to broaden your mind, encourages creative thought and opens your eyes to concepts you never thought about.
Art begets art, read to inspire yourself to continue to write.
This is only a few of the many reasons why reading is the best advice for aspiring authors, but I felt they were the most important. Writing is hard. There is no way around it, it’s hard. However, the best things in life don’t come easy, but they are always worth it in the end. If writing is truly your passion, then read, dissect books for plot structure, conceptual theories, understand the ends and outs of the story and craft, and you have all the tools to reach your dreams. You just need to be dedicated and willing to learn.
I hope this helped you with any writing struggles and I’ll see ya next time.
What was the last book you read and what was one thing you loved the most about it? Let me know in the comments below!