Read, read, read – and why you should.

R is for Read, read, read.

I’m a s-l-o-w learner.

The biggest advice to improving writing is two-fold. Write, write, write. And read, read, read. I saw it all the time.

I knew that. But I didn’t get it. Not really. I mean why did I have to read so much? I was a writer. I should be writing. And when I did read, I couldn’t shut off my writer’s brain. Or I’d read all the books in my library that I was interested in. I couldn’t afford to buy new releases. That was before I started blogging and didn’t even know what the new releases were!

I have a new motto. Read, read, read and read some more.

  • I get books on interlibrary loan.
  • I put in requests for my library to purchase books – I just need patience.
  • I ask for Amazon and Borders gift cards for my birthday and Christmas.
  • I enter online contests for book giveaways – when I’m not required to do ten millions things just to enter it.
  • I look on the Amazon market place and find year-old releases sometimes for under 2 dollars plus the 4 dollars shipping.
  • I pay attention to e-book promotional freebies.
  • I kept track of my exercise for a year and my insurance company rewarded me 300 dollars.
  • If nothing else, I read the first chapter on Amazon or the Kindle samples.
  • I read for fun but I also read to learn.

Why a writer should read, read, read, and read some more:

  • Support other writers/authors.
  • See what’s already been done.
  • Get a feel for what’s being published.
  • Distinguish the different styles that go with different genres.
  • Learn the genres.
  • Study character, plot, openings, midpoints, endings, sentence structure, internal monologues, transitions, cliffhangers, dialogue, romantic tension, description. And the list is endless.
  • The more I read, the more it transfers over to my writing. In a good way.
  • Figure out if I’m more of a commercial or literary writer and study those books.
  • Compare your writing to your favorite books and see what you can learn!
  • And because at some point, we decided to write because we love a good story.

If you’re not reading in and out of your genre, maybe you should? What do you think?

32 Responses to Read, read, read – and why you should.

  1. mooderino April 21, 2011 at 10:50 am #

    Yep, reading is the doorway to writing.

  2. Andrea April 21, 2011 at 11:01 am #

    I don’t think I could live if I didn’t read.

    This year, I’m making even more of an effort (through my 100 book challenge) to read MG books, because that’s what I write. I think it’s really paying off. My writing is much, much stronger.

  3. Kip April 21, 2011 at 11:20 am #

    Yes! Reading is not only fun―it’s essential for a writer. Great post!

  4. D U Okonkwo April 21, 2011 at 11:33 am #

    I totally agree. There’s no doubt that reading supports other writers, makes you a better writer, and also helps to craft in your chosen genre. Great post!

    • Laura April 21, 2011 at 11:39 am #

      And I’ve found so many new writers and genre that I ended up liking. Just by being open. Sometimes I do think writers forget to read.

  5. Heather Sunseri April 21, 2011 at 12:26 pm #

    My TBR pile is so large right now, and with the Kindle right on top of my pile, it’s even bigger than I realize. But I’m also in first draft mode, so I’m slow to make it through that pile.

    Summer is coming. Lots of time by the pool with the kids. They swim, I read. Heaven. And I can still call it “work” or “research.”

  6. Laura Marcella April 21, 2011 at 1:05 pm #

    Yes, absolutely! Reading is the second best way (after writing!) to learn what you need to know in writing a publishable novel. I love to read! I think I even like reading more than writing. (Shhh, don’t tell my writing that!) That’s because reading is much less strenuous and never ever makes me cry with frustration, lol!

    • Laura April 21, 2011 at 1:44 pm #

      My tbr pile has never been this big with several newer releases and some older ones on my Kindle. Now just to get through them all! I try and read at the lake but so many times friends arrive so I end up talking.

  7. Kate Bowyer April 21, 2011 at 1:46 pm #

    I can’t agree more about reading and the benefits it brings to your writing. I’ve read in a few places where authors say they can’t read anything while they are creating their WIP and I think that’s really sad. If I couldn’t read while writing I’d go crazy.

    I love reading all genres which I’m sure will help in my writing even more. You never know where you can learn something.

  8. Creepy Query Girl April 21, 2011 at 2:29 pm #

    I love reading new releases and I especially love reading titles by authors I’ve met through the blogosphere. I read a bunch of different genres but I am a ‘mood’ reader- I have to be in the mood for that genre, whether its romance, historical, adult thriller, paranormal, or plain YA contemporary. I feel like I get more out of it if I read because I want to live the story. I think you kind of absorb a lot from reading books without necessarily meaning to.

  9. Becky Taylor April 21, 2011 at 2:30 pm #

    YES!! I’ve always been a reader and a lover of that silent communication between writer and reader. I still consider myself a reader first, a reader who now wants to try her hand at reversing the process.

  10. Laura Josephsen April 21, 2011 at 2:30 pm #

    This. I’m the same way–always hearing people say you have to read as a writer. I’d had a LOT of trouble with it recently. That whole ‘can’t shut off my writing brain.’ I am now, however, on a reading hiatus and it has been fantastic. Once I get back to writing, I’m going to try to make sure I have time to just sit back and read, too–it does wonders for my mind.

  11. Ansha Kotyk April 21, 2011 at 3:10 pm #

    Reading is huge for a writer. It’s like taking class. Very important. 🙂

  12. Matthew MacNish April 21, 2011 at 3:21 pm #

    I never seem to have a shortage of books to read. It helps a lot that I get a lot of ARCs, but I think the biggest difference for me is that both my kids spend their allowance on books, and then I get to read them afterward.

  13. Jenny Lundquist April 21, 2011 at 3:21 pm #

    One of the best things about being a writer is that you can read as much as you want and tell people you’re “working.”

  14. Lisa Green April 21, 2011 at 3:39 pm #

    Ultimately, if you don’t like reading, you probably picked the wrong profession. 😀 At the beginning I was in a hurry too. I didn’t want to have to read what felt like an overwhelming amount just to find out who published what. That was business stuff! I was creative. I shudder to admit all that now. BOY WAS I WRONG. 😛 Plus like I said – IT’S FUN!!!

  15. Debby Johnson April 21, 2011 at 4:35 pm #

    Being a writer that doesn’t read is like being a gourmet chef that doesn’t eat – or like food. It’s practically impossible I think. I admit it, I am an addict. There, I’ve said it. When I’m not writing, I’m reading and when I’m not reading I’m people watching to see how they move, interact and observing how they speak. If I had to give up one of these things, well gosh, you might as well ask me to quit breathing, it would have the same effect. I believe these things help to improve my writing.

    Fabulous post! Loving the alphabet. Can’t wait wait for “S”

    • Laura April 21, 2011 at 4:48 pm #

      Similar to Lisa, when I didn’t read as much it wasn’t because I don’t love to read. I just felt like I had to spend my time writing. After seeing a big jump in my writing after really reading and seeing in action things I was trying to do in my own writing – I know I was wrong. Thanks everyone!

  16. Shelli April 21, 2011 at 5:00 pm #

    Good timing! I have some Recommendations on my site today. I love reading, and now that I’m writing, I learn so much from every book, good and bad. My favorite is The Book Thief by Markus Zusak. To me, that is the holy grail of writing talent. If I ever come close to producing a work such as that, I will die happy.

  17. Karen Lange April 21, 2011 at 5:12 pm #

    Great list! Reading for me is like breathing. I must do it. 🙂

  18. LynNerd April 21, 2011 at 6:07 pm #

    I love this post, Laura, and the ways you’ve found to afford to buy/rent more books. Now that I’ve been trying to keep up with some blogs, I notice I don’t have nearly enough time to read (or write). I’m a slow reader anyways. I like to take it all in, not rush through a good story. I’m thinking of starting a blog, but I don’t know how you guys keep up with it all, so I don’t know that I’m cut out for it. I love your blog, Laura, because your posts come in my emails. It makes it so much easier to keep up with it and the comments left by others.

    I have an exercise bike and am able to set a book in the little holder and read while I’m on it. It’s great! Makes the time on the bike just fly by, plus help me get some exercise, too. I like to keep a journal of the books I read and just started writing down the short summary on the copyright page. This is to help me learn how to do those one sentence pitches, which can be difficult. It’s funny when I look back at some of the journals and see a book I’ve read and don’t even remember reading it or what it was about! So some books stay with you (like The Hunger Games left such an impression on me, and I still miss the characters months after finishing the trilogy), and some books don’t leave any lasting impression at all.

    Definitely reading is a must for writers if we’re to continue to perfect our craft. Nice post, Laura.

  19. Nicole/MadlabPost April 21, 2011 at 6:27 pm #

    You are so right on!

    I love to read and get books in a variety of ways, including the library.

    Reading is not only essential for writers but is also a very important activity for non-writers. It keeps us thinking and exercising our brain 🙂

  20. Becca Puglisi April 21, 2011 at 7:33 pm #

    Ummm, tell me more about the rebate from your insurance company, lol. I’d track just about anything for a $300 check.


    Becca @ The Bookshelf Muse

    PS: And that’s a great comprehensive list of why we should read read read. Sorry. Still stunned by the exercise rebate 🙂

  21. Shannon O'Donnell April 21, 2011 at 7:49 pm #

    Hey! I have a new book you can read. It’s called Savannah Grey and you WON it at my blog!! Yay! Email me your address and I’ll pop it in the mail. I hope you love it. 🙂

    mrso_d at yahoo dot com

  22. Ghenet Myrthil April 21, 2011 at 9:25 pm #

    I agree! I LOVE to read. I do a lot of the same things as you to avoid shelling out too much money on books. Besides reading being fun, you can learn so much about writing.

  23. Theresa Milstein April 21, 2011 at 10:50 pm #

    You are so right! Excellent lists.

    When first wrote, I was worried I’d copy voice or ideas or something, so I didn’t read as much as I should’ve. A couple of years ago, I got over that. So far, I’ve read about 33 books this year. Not as good as some, but pretty good for me.

  24. Theresa Milstein April 21, 2011 at 10:50 pm #

    By the way, I see you’re a handler at NESCBWI too.

    • Laura April 21, 2011 at 11:28 pm #

      yes, I’m a handler even though I have no idea what I”m supposed to. Introduce the speaker? I think. And fetch water? 🙂

      I think when we’re learning it’s not a bad thing to copy voice or style b/c eventually it will evolve into our own the more we write. Even painters copy the masters in order to learn.

  25. Dawn April 22, 2011 at 1:42 am #

    Yes, I agree. Read, read, read! So much to learn from other authors. What you like. What you don’t like. Learn, learn, learn.

  26. Samantha Vérant April 22, 2011 at 5:21 am #

    I’m a genre junkie. This year I’d like to read 100 books, but I don’t know if that will happen. I think I’m at 20 or so now. At any rate, I’m mixing my reads up– classics, YA, best sellers, middle grade. I guess the only thing I’m not into are bodice ripping romances and heavy sci-fi/fantasy.

  27. Kate Bowyer April 22, 2011 at 2:25 pm #

    @Shelli, thanks for the recommendation on The Book Thief. I’ve heard of the book but haven’t read it so just requested it from my library.

  28. Joy April 22, 2011 at 2:27 pm #

    Great list of reasons why a writer should read. Knowing what’s out there helps keep me current and studying the craft and the mechanisms other writers use is ever useful.

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