Posted in Reading, Writing Tips

Why You Need to Read to Write

Have you ever asked, “How can I be a better writer?”

Has anyone ever answered, “Read”?

That probably wasn’t the advice you were looking for. Generally, people want a nice checklist to complete and then have an exceptionally better product once they’re finished. They shrug off the reading advice because they want to write, not read. But that advice you ignored may be just what you need.

1) Improve your vocabulary

It may not seem like it, but you’re constantly increasing your vocabulary with everything you read. The greater your vocabulary, the greater your grasp on the English language will be, allowing you to more effectively convey feelings, settings, ect, through your writing.

I don’t mean your manuscripts have to be riddled with big words that the majority of your readers will have to pull out a dictionary to understand in the first place, but there’s a huge difference in knowing just the right word to describe something and knowing almost the right word. And no, a thesaurus does not solve that problem.

If I didn’t read so much, I imagine my vocabulary would be depressingly small. When I look back at my drafts from years ago and compare them to my more recent works, the improved quality just from the vocabulary alone is incredible.

Fun fact: I learned the word “muddled” from reading Twilight when I was twelve. 😉

2) Familiarize yourself with successful (and unsuccessful) executions of story structure and pacing

Now, I’m not a very formulaic person. I know there are certain structures your story is supposed to follow, and how to outline it as such; I just find I have more success when I allow my story to have a natural progression instead of trying to cram it into predetermined boxes. However, structure and pacing are still very important in my life, even if I’m not an outliner.

Structure and pacing are some of the first things I look for while revising. And if you don’t know what to look for, this step could be very difficult for you. While reading, study the story of both books you enjoyed and books you didn’t. Why did that story hold your attention so well? Why didn’t the other? In my experience, you learn just as much from reading a bad book as you do from a good one.

Good checkpoints to look out for while reading are the inciting incident (both how it’s executed and its placement within the book), the midpoint, and the climax. If you can nail those three, generally, your natural writing instinct will help fill in the blanks.

3) Learn what types of writing styles you enjoy and begin to shape your own

Everyone has his or her own unique writing voice. In my opinion, voice is the most difficult aspect to nail, especially when you first start writing. And speaking from personal experience, I sounded like a lot of other people before I found my own voice—and it’s something I’m still working on.

The more you read, the more styles and voices you’ll be exposed to, which will help you figure out what makes you like or dislike a book as far as the actual writing goes, inadvertently shaping your own.

Share your thoughts on reading and writing in the comments; I’d love to hear what you think!

And get reading 😉

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Author:

Hello! My name is Katie and I like to write. If I'm not writing, I'm probably reading, running, playing with my dogs, or eating peanut butter ;)

11 thoughts on “Why You Need to Read to Write

  1. Stephen King is a strong advocate of reading. He says a writer should read every day. It helps us hone our craft. I don’t think he’s the only one. I imagine all successful writers read.

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    1. I think it really does hone our craft. It’s the same with most things in life. Take sports, for example. Sure, practicing the actual sport improves your game, but would you ever know the rules or how to play if you hadn’t been exposed to others playing the game in the first place? It’s the same with writing. We can’t improve if we aren’t willing to learn from others. Thanks for your comment!

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  2. I get a surprising amount of crap for my grasp of writing—apparently I’m a snoooob—and people always seem to think that I spend literally every moment studying the English language. I get a lot of “Not everyone is an English major, you know!” as if somehow my major in English is what makes me a good writer. No matter how much I explain that I started reading at an early age, people refuse to believe that just reading will help them improve their writing. Clearly, I have done something special. Clearly, my level of comprehension is simply not reasonably attainable.

    Incredibly and endlessly frustrating : /

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  3. I agree wholeheartedly! You don’t begin to understand your genre unless you’ve read it fully, certain things tend to trend with certain audiences so it’s wonderful to stay on top of that! I read as much as I can and knowing what makes a good book a good book has definitely impacted my ability to write a good book!

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  4. Great post! I am planning a similar post about reading about writing to improve your writing. Writing is a skill that needs to be studied and practiced and there are some great resources out there to help us think outside the box and/or break down what author’s have done and why it works. I love reading, sure. But I also am learning to love reading about writing! 🙂

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