The Importance of Authors Reading

by | Apr 27, 2021

I recently read an interesting post in an author community, and I’m sharing it here with permission since it has to do with authors reading.

I have made many mistakes as a writer. Many mistakes. Perhaps the two biggest boil down to this: (1) a failure to read and (2) a failure to write.

“Okay, it’s more complicated than that, but let me illustrate why I’m so frustrated right now. I have made these mistakes. I have learned about them–and from them. I acknowledge them. I sometimes share my stories with younger writers, hoping they won’t make the same mistakes I did.

“Well, a few years back, I met a younger writer interested in the same kind of books I have loved since I was a wee child. He had written a short story which he posted online.

“He encouraged me to read it. It took me a while, but when I got to it, I skimmed it over and then printed it out, read it over once, and then a second time, taking notes both times.

“I e-mailed him and told him how much I enjoyed it, but said it needed work and had some suggestions. We met for lunch. I went over my print-out. His face flushed. He was delighted. ‘So you really liked it?’

“‘I did,’ I replied handing him the folder with the print-out, noting that I had marked the parts which, I thought, needed improvement. He refused the printout, telling me to keep it.

“I suggested some books (no writing books, all fiction, including The Last Unicorn). He didn’t want to read anything lest it compromise his style.

I was stunned. He wanted me to read his story. I read his story. Indeed, I read it very carefully, and he didn’t even show me the courtesy of pretending to look over my suggestions.

“And that he wasn’t reading other books…

“After our lunch, I resolved I wouldn’t talk to him about writing again, but would still encourage him to write.

“Well, he contacted me on social media recently and referenced a movie based on something Neil Gaiman wrote. ‘Gaiman’s a great writer,’ I replied. ‘Have you read the book? I’ve read pretty much everything he’s written. I think you’d enjoy the book.’

“Again the reply that he doesn’t read.

“And yet he wants to write things for other people to read.

“Look, I know that many writers, as they become successful, have less and less time to read. But if a newbie writer is not reading, he’s really not interested in writing.

“I have learned this past year that to write well, you have to read–sometimes very closely–those who write in the genre you do. And I refer to genre very broadly here. Someone who wants to write fantasy fiction should be reading as much speculative fiction as he reads psychology, history, and mythology scholarship. What I learned this past year.

“And I’m just wondering if this young man’s comment got to me not just because of my ongoing Tolkien exercise (and now some Peter Beagle too), but also because it reminded me of that day when he didn’t take the printout.

“And maybe also because it reminded me of some of the mistakes I made when I was his age…

“If you want to write fantasy, read fantasy–or at least some kind of speculative fiction. And if you don’t feel you’re quite ready to write, start copying out a favorite book. And then read Kevin J. Anderson’s book on Productivity, paying particular attention to Writing Productivity Tip #4: Dare to be Bad [. . .] (At First).

“You can fix it later.

“And since many published writers have already done the fixing, turn to them to see how it’s done.”

Adriel here again. 
What this author said is spot on. You cannot improve your writing craft if you’re not reading both fiction in your genre, as well as non-fiction about craft and the various aspects of your created worlds. We often get our best ideas, and have our creativity fueled when we’re reading someone else. Authors reading is key to authors creating.
But also like this author said, it can be difficult to squeeze reading time in! It just so happens that last week, I wrote a blog post on TotallyNovel about how to get more reading in! If you’ve been struggling with reading enough, make sure you check that out.
Adriel Wiggins

Adriel Wiggins

Owner, Adriel Wiggins Author Services and Consulting

Hello! I’m Adriel Wiggins, wife, mother of three, bibliophile, art geek, and all around student. I’ve been on a quest all of my life to learn as much as I possibly can about everything I possibly can. This has helped me tremendously in what eventually became my life’s purpose: to help other people become the best version of themselves. It is in that line that I became an assistant.

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