Do writers have the advantage when it comes to reading? Learn how you can improve your reading skills through the power of writing!
Why do good writers make great readers?
The craft of writing is not easy. This is a universally acknowledged truth. Forget coming up with the next Pride and Prejudice or Harry Potter — this simple article itself was the product of several hours. Researching, the actual writing, and then editing it all down… there’s so much that goes into every piece.
Now, for the age-old question: how important is reading for writers?
The short answer is very important. But, in the grand tradition of literature, let me take you through a more leisurely stroll explaining why reading matters:
1. Writers learn grammar by osmosis
The best ideas cannot hide the blemishes of bad grammar.
Most people who grow up reading will tell you that the key to unravelling a sentence lies not in a classroom. Instead, it is in the library. Of course, classrooms can teach us how to differentiate between “its” and “it’s”, or how to balance clauses in homework essays. However, is it through reading that we pick up an instinctive understanding of new words through context. The more we expose ourselves to good writing, the more we internalise the rules that govern it. So, when you sit down to actually write that story in your head, you can pull these pointers out of your toolbox without thinking twice.
2. Writers learn about multiple subjects
Writers usually juggle and research multiple ideas at once.
“Write what you know” is a bald-faced lie.
There’s a long-standing joke in the industry that nobody’s Google search history is more stranger— or, shall we say, more eclectic— than an aspiring author’s. Researching for a sci-fi novel might include a crash course in black holes and time paradoxes, while a historical romance involves reading up on what courtship was like for people of that era. Normally, these concepts seem intimidating and too academic by themselves. However, when incorporated into books, they become easier to grasp. Through the process of breaking down heavy concepts in the context of a story (be it fiction, or non-fiction), the writer not only expands their own knowledge but also simplifies ideas for other readers.
A writer must be aware of everything under the sun; a kind of casual omniscience that can only come from years of quality reading.
Books also introduce us to a wide variety of people— rich and poor, shy and outgoing, kind and cold. Reading about their lives furthers your grasp of human nature, rooting the characters you eventually create in realism.
3. Writers learn the bones of storytelling
Even the Hemingways and Murakamis started with the basics.
Terms like ‘exposition’, ‘rising action’ and ‘climax’ make up the skeleton of every story. Rather than looking up dull flowcharts about narrative structure, why not read a book to see it employed in action? A popular piece of advice in writing is “Show, don’t tell.” Articles like this do the telling but stories are what facilitate the showing, making it easier to remember what you’ve learnt. In addition to this, every genre has its own tropes that it’s necessary to be familiar with— either to take a cliché and make it your own, or avoid it altogether. As people, far wiser than me, have said many times in the past: you have to learn the manual, from cover to cover, to figure out how to break the rules.
4. Writers discover their unique voice
Pick up a book and study how it makes the words sing on paper.
Writing, as all things creative and spontaneous, is not an exact art. And quite honestly, that’s the fun of it! Every author has a distinct voice that shines through in the devices they use and the choices they make. Most people write in the mainstream third-person perspective, while the gutsier ones opt for a first-person approach. Some lean heavily on metaphors and similes, while others have beautifully descriptive imagery. Reading their works helps you sift through the different styles, experimenting with technique and blending elements until you find one that works for you.
There’s no such thing as unproductive reading. A good book shows you what to do, a bad book shows you what to not.
5. Writing sparks ideas out of nowhere
Behind every author, are a hundred more that inspired them in some way.
Reading is an interactive process. The best books do not spell out every last detail, but leave some gaps to be filled in by your imagination. This keeps our brains engaged. You might be reading a murder-mystery while suddenly hit with a great subplot to use for your thriller! On days that you’re crippled by writer’s block, revisit your favourite book — both to marvel at the artistry behind it, and to kick your muses into gear again. Writing begins with falling in love with gorgeous stories, in order to inspire a fraction of that response from our readers someday.
The journey to good writing is paved with great books. Perhaps we shall meet again, in another article, but for now- “Bon voyage!”