So, you have to like reading in order to like writing...
Well, no, that’s not always the case. Some people hate reading, but love writing, while others read as much as they can and love writing. But why is reading important to any writer? What difference would it make, if any?
Reading novels can make quite a difference, in fact. Although reading novels isn’t a necessity, it certainly helps if you’re a committed writer with the aim to publish your novels/stories. Even if you dislike reading, by reading a wide range of fiction novels, not just the genre you plan to write, or what you are used to writing, really does widen your skills as a writer. Reading different genres gives you an appreciation of styles and voices and the unique ways that writers approach their work.
Whether you choose the classics or contemporary authors to read, there is a lot you can learn from them. Consider them as teachers; they can show us everything we need to know about the basics of fiction writing, so it is worth studying them.
Questions to Ask
As writers we don’t just read a novel for enjoyment, we’re asking several important questions as we reflect on the story, such as:
• Did you enjoy it? Why did you like it so much?
• Who were your favourite characters and why?
• How did you feel about the pace, setting and tone?
• Did it make you turn the page and you couldn’t put it down until you’d read it?
• Is there any event you would change, and could you improve it?
• What did you think of the ending – was it satisfactory, did it tie up the loose ends?
By analysing how writers have written their stories, it helps you as a writer to understand your own writing and how to make it better.
What are the benefits of reading novels if you are a writer?
There are several benefits to reading a whole gamut of different stories, novels, poetry and genres:
• Perhaps the greatest benefit of reading novels is that it gives writers a sense of how it should be done. They show us how to create effective dialogue, narrative and characters, as well as how to place flashbacks, insert tension and atmosphere and how to maintain tone and pitch to sentences. By analysing how they have set out the story, you can learn from this and adapt your own writing.
• The second most important benefit is that reading novels offers us inspiration. Sometimes our writing comes to a stop, we hit a wall and our creativity dries up – what we might call ‘writer’s block’. The best way to overcome this is to pick up a book and read one of your favourite authors. This usually kick starts that creative fire in your belly, simply because of your aspirations. You can see what this author has achieved and how they’ve done it – you can too.
• Another great benefit is that it improves your vocabulary. Most novels will act as a kind of dictionary, so when you see words that you don’t understand, you can look them up and find out what they mean and use them for future use in your own stories.
• They also help fire up your imaginations. Reading a cross section of genres helps writers to formulate and put together new ideas for their writing,
• Reading helps with research. Reading genre-specific novels about certain historical incidents, or places, or people or even cultures will also help you form new ideas with your own stories.
• Reading novels will improve your creativity. As already mentioned, it works in the same way as inspiration, and it tends to make you want to get writing once that inspiration kicks in and this sparks our creativity.
• Reading novels increases your understanding of the fundamental building block of writing: the need to explore and understand the human condition - behaviour of human beings. This is at the heart of every single book out there.
In the days before the instant information presented by the internet, new writers relied heavily on published writers for ideas, inspiration, guidance and creativity and how to go about writing. The best way to learn is to read. My advice is simple: if you want to be a great writer, read as much as you can.
Some of my favourite writers include classic writers like Charles Dickens, Shakespeare and Thomas Hardy, as well as modern writers like Isaac Asimov, Stephen King, Dean Koontz, Lee Child, Robert Ludlum and Matt Hilton, as well as authors I’ve liked, such as H G Wells, Aldous Huxley, George Orwell and James Joyce.
All of these writers have inspired and taught me in many ways.
There are countless resources at hand for writers. The internet is our biggest pool of information, so it’s worth looking up the best books to read and learn from. Some of the best novels ever written are not necessarily the classics. Some are modern day classics, written in the last 100 years or so.
I want to thank Tim Handorf for contacting me with a recently published list of '20 Essential Works of Utopian Fiction’, which is an amazing list of some of the greatest authors, some of whom I’ve had the pleasure to read and learn from.
Please see the link below to take a look at this list. There is some excellent reading material in this list and it is well worth a visit.
There are also plenty of novels available to read online, such as Project Gutenberg. It’s a great resource centre and one of the largest collections of free, online books.
Next time: What makes a good writer?