The Importance of Reading for Writers

Monday Features


Reading and writing naturally go together. Not only is reading the effect of a writer’s work, though, but it is also what should proceed writing. Writers are some of the most voracious readers! Here are a few good reasons to read if you’re interested in writing.

1) Reading actively engages the imagination and creates better thinking. Studies have shown that this can be true for up to five days after reading a novel. Writers of fiction are therefore not only entertainers, but “brain boosters”!

2) Reading alerts you to what is popular in the market. This does not mean that it should be mimicked. It does, however, show types of things that are of interest to readers. Perhaps, more importantly, it can show what is missing from the market. An original is better than a 1000th copy of something already known.

3) Reading classics is important to determine what creates longevity in character or plot. Style changes can cause classics to seem aged or stagnant to their era by their diction or syntax, but there is a reason that certain books remain classics while their contemporaries fade through age. Examine what makes a character, scene or plot unforgettable- and thereby timeless- and remember that. This is also true of themes.

4) Reading enlarges one’s vocabulary. Words literally sink into your brain and may insert themselves into your writing. If you’re not quite sure if the word was used right- look it up! Chances are, your mind has already supplied you with the perfect word through what you have subconsciously learned while reading.

5) Reading inspires. Laura Ingalls Wilder, of Little House on the Prairie fame, advised reading a good story before writing. I’ve often heard other writers say that reading a book has inspired them to write. Reading good fiction inspires good writing.

6) When reading fiction, I often hear agents to advise reading within your genre to see what works, what is popular, how it can be done well, what should be included, etc. This is true, but I would suggest reading outside your genre as well. At the root of every story is character and plot. You can still learn about character and plot from a genre vastly different from your own. Even a book that you don’t like can teach you something, even if that’s just what you want to make sure not to include in your own writing.

7) It’s important to not only read fiction as an author of novels, but also non-fiction as well. As an author of historical fiction, this is obvious. I have to learn about the past and its details to write. Even for contemporary writers, though, non-fiction can provide information on a character’s career or hobbies or a location for the setting. Or, perhaps, a personality portrait of the character’s type can be explored through a book on psychology.

Happy Reading and Happy Writing!

My best to you all,

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