You have to read to write. Everyone has heard this, over and over again. It’s usually one of the first pieces of advice that is thrown at rookie writers. Read more! We’re told to read more than we write, read everything we can get our hands on, but why? How can this help?
There’s a whole bunch of ways that reading can help improve your writing but I’m going fo focus on three main ones.
- Reading can help you get unstuck. Getting stuck is one of most painful experiences you can have when writing. Writers learn to dread the feeling, sitting down at your keyboard and having nothing to put down. Day after day goes by and you fall farther and farther behind your goals. It sucks, plain and simple. Reading can help save you from this pit. When you read, you get out of your own head and into someone else’s. You never know what inspiration you’ll find in there, what methods or tools that you can use to get yourself unstuck.
- Helping strengthen your weaknesses. If you are reading authors who write better than you (and you should) then there is a lot you can learn. Tips, tricks, strategies, they’ll filter into your brain whether you pay attention or you don’t. Writing is a learning experience, one that never ends. Like any discipline, you must study in order to get better. Focus and work hard enough and your weaknesses might just become your strengths!
- Keeps your passion strong. If you guys are anything like me, you can get bogged down in the day to day focus of your own work. Writing is a lot of work and like anything can start to feel like a chore after weeks and months of plugging away on a manuscript. The passion can start to leak away. Reading can help fight that off, recharge your inspiration batteries. Can help you remember why you started writing in the first place.
Here’s some specific examples of what I’ve learnt from a few of my favourite authors.
J.K. Rowling: Camaraderie and creating engaging interpersonal relationships. I grew up on Harry Potter. Without it I doubt I would be doing what I am doing today. There are a whole list of elements that make the Harry Potter books special. Yet the one that’s helped me most in my writing is Rowling’s ability to create dynamic and meaningful relationships between characters. Harry Potter is a character defined by his past and by his friendships and feuds. Yet all of these relationships feel real, organic. Creating these is no easy task, and if done wrong can make your whole novel feel awkward. Just the friendship trio of Harry, Ron and Herminone alone is a roadmap on how to craft compelling friendships. They grow with each book and so does their relationships with each other.
Pratchett: The power of dialogue and how to use it. As a rookie writer its hard not to overthink everything, to over explain, over write. You are scared of doing too little so you end up doing too much. Certainly this was an issue I struggled with in my early writing, and certainly still do. However, reading Terry Pratchett’s wonderful novels has helped me gain perspective, to be more minimalistic in my work. Pratchett trusts his audience to be able to keep up and decipher the clues he leaves, mainly in his dialogue. He implies and infers, knowing that a alert reader will be able to pick up on it. The conversations between characters does everything, sets up the plot, describes the action, and is the driving force behind the whole narrative.
Joe Abercrombie: Made me remember why I wanted to write in the first place. Passion is nothing besides discipline. Build a good routine and stick to it and you’ll pump out novels. Yet, passion cannot be completely dismissed. Passion breathes life into your writing, makes it vibrant. Yet passion can fade and must be nurtured and rekindled like a fire in a windy place. Abercrombie made we want to start writing and whenever I re-read one of his novels I’m reminded of this. It gives me a push, forces me to strive to be better, to work harder. To see the passion hiding behind the work.
These are just a few ways and examples of how good books can help you become a better writer! Now get out there and start reading!
About James Bee
James Bee is a novelist and blogger working out of Vancouver, Canada. He’s the author of two fantasy novels with more on the way! You can follow him on twitter @jameslikesbooks or follow him on his blog!
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