Thursday, April 21, 2016

Why Writers Should Be Readers

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I'm always shocked to find so many writers do not spend time reading, especially reading their genre. On the one hand, I get it. We all only have so much time, and it seems that time is best invested... well, writing. Right?

I'm guilty too. I LOVE reading, but when I'm strapped for time or feeling overwhelmed, I usually either turn to my own story or Gilmore Girls (#teamjess).

But I think we are losing so many opportunities by not reading... opportunities to get a fresh perspective on our own writing!

Here are several things that frequent reading allows:

  • It keeps us in touch with what readers want. As a writer, I may not want to introduce my main characters until chapter three. As a reader, if I have to wait until chapter three before the hero and heroine meet, I'm probably putting the book down before then. As a writer, I may want to kill characters when they frustrate me. As a reader, I HATE WHEN WRITERS DO THAT.
  • It keeps us aware of comparable titles. If you're an author or an aspiring author, books are your business. You need to know what's out there so you can bill yourself as relevant.
  • It hones our craft. You can write until the cows come home, but you will never get the skill-sharpening power that only reading allows. Reading is like looking at someone else's art. You learn to appreciate others' work, and that appreciation betters your own. And as an added benefit, you can internalize a sense of story arc in a way that feels "easy" when you aren't forcing the plot like we often do in our own stories.
  • It establishes a sense of community. Reading well and often is one very successful means of linking ourselves within a writing community... it's a "you scratch my back, I'll scratch yours" sort of scenario. If you invest yourself in reading others' work, you're that much more likely to find critique partners, mentors, and friends who will help you with your own.

Your turn! What other benefits have you found in reading? What are you reading right now?


Ashley Clark writes romance with southern grace. She's dreamed of being a writer ever since the thumbprint-cookie-days of library story hour. Ashley has an M.A. in English and enjoys teaching literature courses at her local university. She's an active member of ACFW and runs their newcomer's loop. When she's not writing, Ashley's usually busy rescuing stray animals and finding charming new towns. You can find Ashley on her personal blog, Facebook, Pinterest, and Twitter. She is represented by Karen Solem.


kaybee said...

Ashley, this is a good reminder of what we should be doing. I'm trying to read more critically, while still having fun. I especially like reading a book by an author I "know" after they talk about it here or on another writing site, and seeing how the author put the principles to work.
Kathy Bailey

Carrie Ann said...

I love reading; however with a progressive eye disease, reading can be quite challenging at times. I've been listening to audio books more and more recently because of this. What are your thoughts about this version of books? Can these be as beneficial to writers as well?

Rebecca Gomez said...

When I come home with a huge stack of books from the library, I can happily and honestly tell my husband that it's part of my job!

Ashley Clark said...

Kathy, I agree-- isn't it so fun to see friends' writing and "hear" their voice in it?

Carrie, I absolutely think audio books can be just as beneficial! Personally, I see them as a different type of creative expression, because not only do they "tell" the story, but in a way, they also perform it, so they're sort of like a play on tape. It takes a whole new level of skill to read an audio book well! I'm sorry to hear about your progressive eye disease. :(

Rebecca, I know that feeling! Only, here it's usually a case of me BUYING the books at a secondhand store and having no place to put them! HA!