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  • Writer's pictureSheldon Higdon

Why Reading is Important for Writing.

"If you don’t have time to read, you don’t have the time (or the tools) to write. Simple as that.” Stephen King.

Why is reading important for writing? First of all, let me start by saying that when one reads they should read widely. If you want to write horror, don’t read horror only. Read romance, fantasy, science fiction, westerns, thrillers, and suspense novels. (And read young adult and middle grade, too. There are a lot of good books to be read in these.) Read *everything and anything. It will ALL help you. Besides, at some point you’re going to want to write in a different genre, say a fantasy novel, and reading fantasy, which is a part of that everything will help you with that because you didn’t limit yourself to one genre. Also, a lot of genres these days are crossed-genres. Like horror and science fiction or romance and fantasy. In the end, it’ll help you understand the tropes and/or structures, and so on, of each genre. The Dos and Don’ts. *Let me add that you should literary novels, comics, and nonfiction books as well.

When you read a lot you’ll eventually be able to dissect the important information from the rest of the text. Critical thinking. You’ll see the structure of the writing, and various structures used tell the story. You’ll see how characters are developed. Basically, you’ll see what makes a good story and how to make a good story. Your lexicon will increase. Your spelling will be better. As well as your ability to speak, especially when you have to read a section of your work in front of a crowd or do a Q&A. And your ability to sympathize will improve.

As George R.R. Martin once wrote, “A reader lives a thousand lives before he dies. The man who never reads lives only one.” Meaning, reading takes you on many journeys not otherwise lived. And lastly, it’s fun.

I thought I would ask author Paul Tremblay, Senior Editor Michael Homler, author Tori Eldridge, and author Tim Waggoner why it's important to read in becoming a writer. Here’s what they had to say.

Paul Tremblay, author of A HEAD FULL OF GHOSTS and SURVIVOR SONG says, "A writer who doesn't read would be like a lifeguard who can't swim. The only writing advice that I do think is universal is to read. Read, read, read. Read widely and in different genres."

Michael Homler, Senior Editor, St. Martin's Press, says, "It’s important to read to get a feel for what’s out there and to continue to develop your reading skills which will carry over to your writing. Styles and subjects change constantly and the better reader you are likely the better your writing becomes too." 

Tori Eldridge, author of THE NINJA DAUGHTER and THE NINJA’S BLADE says, "Writing without reading is like trying to become a professional boxer without watching boxing matches. We not only have to critically read books when we’re learning the basics of our craft, we need to continue reading critically, daily if possible, to be inspired, challenged, and updated on innovative ways of storytelling. I know some writers worry that the voice of other author will seep into their own work, but I have never found this to be true. Although, sometimes I will consciously read books in a different genre or written in a different POV than my work in progress if I need that boost of creative isolation.

Another reason reading is so important to me is to support my fellow authors. As we writers know, the business of writing is not an isolated process. Writer communities and associations can be a tremendous boon but only if we put in the time and energy to strengthen those relationships. Reading the work of other authors and promoting their books builds community and good will. It’s also a wonderful way to find your tribe for co-author events and panels. For all these reasons, I have one book I’m reading and one that I’m listening to so I can make the most of my limited free time. I can hike, cook, and clean with audiobooks and do sit ups, exercise bike, and stretching while reading. On special days, I’ll dedicate hours to enjoying a great book."

Tim Waggoner, horror author of SOME KIND Of MONSTER and the how-to-write horror book WRITING IN THE DARK says, “Reading is absolutely vital to being a writer. A writer who doesn’t read is like a chef that doesn’t eat or a musician that doesn’t listen to music. If you plan to encode concepts into little marks on a page then give them to someone to decode so they’ll understand what you’re trying to communicate, you need to know everything about how that process works – both the encoding and the decoding. You need to understand how readers use their imaginations to create virtual worlds inside their heads, and the only way to do this is to read and pay attention to how your imagination works. You need to read widely – works in your genre, outside your genre, contemporary works, classic works, traditionally-constructed stories, experimental ones – in order to expose yourself to as many narrative tools that you can so that you have more techniques to draw on when you write. You need to always bring your A-game because you’re competing for your readers’ time and attention with everything else they have to do in their lives, and all the other authors whose work they could be reading. The only way to be competitive is to get sharp and stay sharp, and reading throughout the course of your career, along with regular writing practice, is how you do that.”

So if you want to be a writer then go READ! Read widely! If you don't want to be a writer then READ anyway, because it'll only help you.

Stay Safe. Stay Positive. Stay You.

Paul Tremblay has won the Bram Stoker, British Fantasy, and Massachusetts Book awards and is the author of Survivor Song, The Cabin at the End of the World, Disappearance at Devil’s Rock, A Head Full of Ghosts, the crime novels The Little Sleep and No Sleep Till Wonderland, and the short story collection, Growing Things and Other Stories.

Tori Eldridge is the author of The Ninja’s Blade and The Ninja Daughter, nominated for the Anthony, Lefty, and Macavity Awards for Best First Novel. Her short stories have been published in several anthologies and her narrative poem appears in the inaugural reboot of Weird Tales magazine. Tori holds a 5th degree black belt in To-Shin Do ninjutsu and has traveled the U.S. teaching ninja arts and women’s self-protection.

Tim Waggoner has over 50 published novels and 7 collections of short stories. He’s won the Bram Stoker Award and has been a finalist for the Shirley Jackson Award, the Scribe Award, and the Splatterpunk Award.

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