This is a very important tip. Read everything.
I’m in a number of writers’ groups and you might be surprised to see how often it comes up – a new writer, with tonnes of enthusiasm introduces themselves and asks if it’s unusual that they don’t like to read.
To clarify, I’m not talking about people with reading issues. It’s perfectly possible to be a great writer with dyslexia. There’s loads of tech about for dictating your work. You can find more info here:
No, what I’m talking about are people who want to write books but have no desire to read anyone else’s. Perhaps there’s a fear of plagiarism. Perhaps they’re concerned that all their time will be taken up with reading other people, rather than writing their own stuff. More often than not, it seems their focus is so strong, they’ve forgotten the simple joy of reading.
You might not like me for this and I’ll just have to learn to live with it: you must read.
Reading will improve your writing more than any number of ‘How To Write’ books.
Oh, yeah. I said it.
Personal opinion: you should read whatever makes you happy. You don’t have to limit yourself to the classics. You don’t even have to read books that you like. Sometimes, it can be instructive to read badly reviewed books – books with flimsy storylines, hollow characters, bad grammar. It can helpful to see what doesn’t work and, in reading pieces like this, you can equip yourself with the knowledge and experience to write more effectively.
But every now and then, try and read something that moves you. Something that makes you think. Something that makes you feel. A good book will stay with you forever and, more than that, it can teach you to be a better writer. If you can remind yourself of that feeling – when the book moved you – you can flex your writing muscles and try to recreate that fizz, that burst of bubble, that joy or ache, and create something beautiful.
Also, a good bit of advice for those final checks – proofreading and such – if you read your work out loud, you’ll catch more errors than you will by reading in your head. Sometimes, the eye corrects without your noticing. Somehow, when you read aloud, the eye doesn’t get a chance to save you.
Reading your work aloud is also good practise should a time come when you have to give a reading in public.
If the idea of reading in public scares you down to your underwear, know this: most people think writers are kind of glamorous, scatty, or somewhere in between. Use it to your advantage. If you want to take a bust of a famous author with you everywhere and read only to him or her, do it. You’re a writer. And if you’re successful enough to be asked to give a reading, you can be as kooky as you like. If that sounds like a step too far, here’s something I do: I found that my confidence rose when I wore my favourite perfume. Nothing else mattered, how I was dressed, how I thought I looked, how my voice sounded – so long as I could smell my perfume, I could conquer worlds. Or read a book.
In the meantime, read everything. It doesn’t just improve your vocabulary and your conversation, it’ll help you to be a better writer.
And if you’re going to read a lot, make sure you review everything. You’ll know soon enough what reviews mean to writers, but readers need them too.
And that’s what I know about reading.