Monday, June 7, 2010

Read to Learn

Stephen King’s best advice to new writers (and I would have to agree with him) is this: read a lot and write a lot.

By increasing the quantity and variety of books you read (fiction for a fiction writer etc), you will:

Expose yourself to different writing styles. Style is an illusive creature with so many elements that make up its creation. We all want to find our own style so, to keep from becoming a mere copy of another, it’s best to expose ourselves to a wide variety of differing styles. You will then find your own style that is truly your own.

Increase your vocabulary. While some writers say a large vocabulary is unnecessary to better your writing skills, I disagree. We need words to express our thoughts so the more words we can draw from means our thoughts will become more succinct.

Better the way you use words. Reading more not only increases your vocabulary, but also improves the way you use those new words. You aren’t so tempted to use a word because it sounds fancy. You use it because it’s the right fit.

See punctuation in action. There’s only so many books on punctuation you can read or classes you can attend before you realise your greatest cementer of that new found knowledge is seeing it in action. It’s only then that we gain that deeper understanding to be able to tap its power.

Exercise your mind’s eye. Imagination is essential for all writers. When we read more, our imaginations are fed juicy morsels of potential inspiration.

Explore the use of pace. After reading some old classics, I decided I wanted to write a fast paced book. Then I read some of Matthew Riley’s books which drowned me in super fast action and left me gasping for air. It’s one thing to be told about the importance of pace in a book, another to find your own balance that works for you.

This post is starting to get a bit long so I’ll stop there, but I could so easily go on about the benefits of reading.

Can you think of other benefits that reading has on a writer? Do you try to read a wide variety of books or do you tend to only read the same genre? How many books would you read per month or in a year on average?


  1. I've read a lot of classic lit and draw from that in many ways. But you just have to write and write and write to find your voice. It takes some time.

    If I want to get better at something ... say suspense, I will read someone very good at it and see how the masters do it. Then apply to what I'm doing. Not copying the style, but looking for the technique. A bit of practice and it starts to become part of the repretoire. :)

  2. Yep exactly.. and my next post is about writing to learn.

    It's best to read quality as well, as you say, because we can learn from them. Sometimes reading bad fiction is good too. We can learn what not to do. We just have to be careful not to pick up bad habits ;)

  3. I have been reading a lot latly. I am writing my fist draft, a novel.
    This post gave me some good info and I like Steven Kings advice about reading and writing more because that is what I am doing!
    Latley I have been reading 4 books per month. (a lot for me because my kids keep me busy!)
    I read anything that catches my eye. I have been reading a lot of classics latley.
    I just started a book called Figs and Phantoms. It's pretty awesome!

  4. Hi Alexis,
    I think 4 books per month is really good. I've not heard of Figs and Phantoms. I'll have to check it out :)

  5. I love to read...period...and like to switch between genres...depending on the intensity of the book(s)...I sometimes read several at a time...but usually only one is a first time read...

    Can't imagine not being able to read...even in times of I consider it a blessing when I find those rare moments to read to my heart's content...

  6. Aah.. I don't often read a book more than once. It's only the exceptional books I return to (more on Friday's post)

  7. Good points. I'm an English teacher and punctuation/grammar instruction books lose me, I need to learn by doing.

  8. I love books that make me stop and re-read, savoring how the author put words together in such a way that they formed a visual in my mind. Sometimes I highlight passages before continuing to read.

    Straight From Hel

  9. lol, I'm glad you said that, Charmaine, because those books on punctuation lose me as well.

  10. Helen, my books used to have to be in pristine condition. I didn't want to crack the spines or fold the pages and heaven forbid if any marks sully the text. I'm over that now. I do the underlining thing now :)


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