Today’s Ask Inkitt Question: Since I’ve started writing, I don’t have a lot of time to read. Do I need to be a reader to be a good writer?
My answer is certainly biased, informed by my perspective as a former teacher and current writer and editor, but yes, I think reading improves our skill as writers. Here’s why…
You’ll recognize what works and what doesn’t.
As readers, we recognize what works and what doesn’t in a narrative. We enjoy those times when we’re biting our nails and can’t stop turning the pages. Conversely, we become frustrated if we’re flipping through pages because we’re bored to tears. When a character is so well-written that they practically leap off the page, we know it. Yet when we can’t quite get a handle on them, we’re left wanting. We recognize the difference between suspense in the narrative and a plot so confusing we can’t follow it.
When we read, we learn! Here’s a great article with more on How to Read Like a Writer.
You can read for inspiration.
Personally, I also read for inspiration. When I’m stuck in a plot tangle, or just need a break from my own work, a good story can give my brain a much-needed break. At the same time, my imagination is always running in the background. While I’m not looking to lift anyone’s ideas, the way another author solves a particular problem or deals with a character’s arc can get my own creative energy flowing.
Reading will help you understand genre expectations.
Reading also helps us better understand our reader’s expectations. For example, when reading a romance, I count on the happy ending. In fact, that’s what I’m looking for with a romance. If I’m reading literary fiction, I’m going to savor the words, appreciate the imagery and complex characters. I expect a mystery to be solved by the end of the book, and I’m looking for interesting worlds and an intriguing plot with science fiction. You get the idea.
You certainly don’t have to follow every literary rule for every genre, but if you are going to break a rule, do it with intention and purpose. Reading helps with this too. Look to your favorite books and see where the author did something inventive.
So, make time for reading!
No time to read, you say. How about listening to an audiobook on your commute to work, or reading a few pages every night before bed, or joining a neighborhood book club? If you work reading into your habit life, you may be surprised at how easy it is to finish a few books per month.
While writing is really the most important thing we can do to improve our writing skills, reading, in my opinion, is a close second. Thanks for the great question!