Can Reading Improve Your Writing Skills?
There is lots of advice out there when it comes to writing, mainly because other writers have gone before us – they’ve been there, done it and written the book – therefore all their advice from their own struggles now helps future writers.
But one of the best snippets of advice any would-be author should follow is to read books. Not the ‘How to’ kind, but the fictional books of famous authors, but lots of fictional books in different genres by different authors. Why? Because reading other writers will expose would-be authors to different styles of writing, different genres, different authorial voices and different approaches to the craft.
Seeing how our favourite authors write can be inspiring. They are experienced writers, so by reading their stories, we learn how sentences are structured, how characters act and react, how conflict is woven through the story, how themes emerge, how they’ve used language and so on. We can see how they’ve set out dialogue and how they describe things; the words they use especially. How they do things often motivates us.
When we read a really good book, one that we can’t put down, the mechanics of how the story was put together isn’t at the forefront of our mind, and it’s usually a second, more detailed reading that helps us analyse the processes behind the story. That’s because it’s just not possible to see some details on a first read. It’s only on a second read that we see the plot development and how it changes throughout a story or how the characters develop inwardly on their respective journeys. The second read lets us see the different emotions that shift beneath key scenes; it allows us to see those deeper details, the deft brushstrokes, the background colours of the story. We see how the author wrote their story. Such details provide us with the ability to recognise them in other stories and to use them in our own.
Reading lots of books can also improve the vocabulary. There will be words an author uses that we’ve never heard of before, so when we look up those words, and we see how they’ve been used, we’ll remember them and our word knowledge will grow. The more books we read, the greater our vocabulary becomes.
So can reading lots of books improve your writing? Absolutely it can. The more you read, the more you will learn about writing and how it’s done. Reading other writers isn’t about copying how they do things. It’s about observing how they do it and using those observations to our own advantage in our writing. There is nothing wrong with borrowing elements from other authors, but the idea is they help you to find your own style, flair and approach.
The best advice is to read different genres, different authors and different styles. Don’t just stick to your favourite writers and genres. Gain knowledge in all different styles and types. After all, the more you know, the better your writing compendium will be. Let their words inspire yours.