Writing is a craft that evolves with time, practice, and a relentless pursuit of improvement. For aspiring writers, the journey to becoming a better writer can be both challenging and rewarding. Honestly, it involves more than just mastering grammar and syntax. Improving your writing skills involves harnessing the creative power of words to convey thoughts, emotions, and ideas effectively.
In this article, I explore one of the most potent tools available to aspiring writers. In addition, this tool is completely free! Yes, I’m referring to reading. We will delve into how immersing oneself in the world of literature can be a transformative experience. Reading really fosters growth and development in one’s writing journey.
The Symbiotic Relationship Between Reading and Writing
Becoming a better writer is akin to becoming a better athlete or musician. In other words, it requires constant training and development, and for writers, reading is the equivalent of practice. The relationship between reading and writing is symbiotic and dynamic. Here are some key benefits you can receive by understanding this relationship:
Inspiration and Imagination: When you read, you expose yourself to different ideas, perspectives, and worlds. This experience fuels your imagination and creativity, providing you with a constant source of inspiration for your writing. Therefore, by delving into various genres and styles, you can learn to approach your work with a fresh perspective.
Language and Vocabulary: Reading introduces you to a diverse range of words and phrases. As a result, you will expand your vocabulary, allowing you to articulate your thoughts more precisely and vividly. Overall, a rich vocabulary enhances your ability to convey complex ideas and emotions in your writing.
Understanding Structure and Style: Different authors employ various writing styles and structures. Reading widely enables you to recognize and appreciate these differences. As you become more attuned to these variations, you can incorporate elements from various writers into your own work. Thus, your writing will improve and become more versatile and engaging.
Gaining Insights into Human Nature: Stories are a mirror to the human experience. Reading provides insights into the thoughts, feelings, and motivations of different characters. As a result, you will create well-rounded and relatable characters in your own writing.
Learning from the Masters: Reading the works of accomplished authors offers invaluable lessons in craftsmanship. You can learn about pacing, plot development, dialogue, character development, and more by studying how seasoned authors do it. Analyzing their work can inspire you to emulate their techniques and adapt them to your own writing.
The Impact of Reading on Writing Quality
If you talk to experienced writers, one for one they will all tell you that if you want to become a better writer you must read as much as you can. Why? Let’s analyze how reading can benefit you.
Improved Language Skills
Exposure to well-written literature enhances your language skills. You absorb that knowledge. Honestly, it’s an excellent educational experience all on its own! As an avid reader, you become more adept at crafting sentences that flow smoothly, with a natural rhythm and a rich, varied vocabulary. This, in turn, makes your writing more engaging and enjoyable to read.
Reading encourages you to think creatively. As you immerse yourself in stories and ideas, your mind becomes more flexible and inventive. Thus, you’ll find it easier to brainstorm ideas, create unique plots, and develop compelling characters.
The more you read, the more you learn. You gather information about different cultures, historical events, and scientific discoveries. This knowledge can enrich your writing, making it more authentic. As a result, your prose will be more grounded and will resonate with your readers.
Reading allows you to observe how other authors get you to step into the shoes of diverse characters and understand their perspectives. To be effective, you need to learn empathy and be able to truly understand how others think. Not everyone lives their lives the same way. We all have unique perspectives. Capturing an individual’s quirky viewpoint and internal thought process is key to becoming a better writer.
Mastery of Genre and Style
As a ghostwriter, I feel it is important to keep up with the latest literature. When a client hires me to write a novel, I always ask them to give me a few titles of their favorite books in that genre. That way I can write in the style the author prefers. So, my advice to you is if you aspire to write within a specific genre, read extensively in that niche. Become familiar with the conventions and expectations of the genre and you’ll become a better writer.
Create a Habit of Reading
If you aren’t an avid reader, it’s OK. You can get there step by step! Start by setting achievable reading goals. Decide to read a certain number of books per month. Find a new genre to explore. Whatever the goal, each one can help you stay committed to reading. Having said that, it’s a good idea to not limit yourself to a single genre or type of book. Explore a wide range of literature. The broader your reading palette, the more influences you can draw upon.
If reading sounds a bit like a chore, it might work to set aside a specific time for reading each day. Consider it study time. Whether it’s in the morning, during your commute, or before bed, consistency is key. If you allow it, reading can become an integral part of your daily life.
Some people find it helpful to join a book club or participate in reading challenges. They engage with others as it can motivate them to find new books and engage in meaningful discussions about them. It also gives you an accountability partner, who will make sure you follow through on your goals.
I find audibles to be very helpful as I can listen to them as I drive, do errands, wash dishes, etc. I don’t recommend that you solely listen to books if you want to become a better writer. There really is no substitute for reading, but I think doing both can work well. Sometimes I’ll listen to an audible and then read the book to really absorb the style.
Active Reading: How to Extract Maximum Benefits
For some, it just isn’t enough to simply read passively. To become a better writer through reading, you must practice active reading, which involves a deeper engagement with the text. Let’s explore a few methods that work for others:
Annotate: For some, it’s helpful to mark interesting passages, underline key sentences, and jot down your thoughts in the margins. This makes it easier to revisit and reflect upon the text later. Or you can take notes in a notebook if you don’t want to mark up your book. Just getting your thoughts and ideas out on paper can be very helpful.
Ask Questions: As you read, ask yourself questions about the story, characters, and writing style. If you have a reading partner or group, talk with them about these ideas. This critical thinking will help you analyze and understand the text more deeply. Additionally, it helps to compare the book you’re reading with others in the same genre. Analyze the differences and similarities in style, structure, and character development.
Summarize: After reading a section or chapter, summarize what you’ve just read in your own words. This exercise might assist you to internalize the material and ensure you’ve grasped the author’s intent. Explore why the author used certain methods to tell the story. Were they effective for you as a reader?
Learning from Different Genres
As I mentioned before, it is best not to limit yourself to a single genre. Exploring various genres can expand your writing skills and help you become a more versatile and adaptable writer. Here’s how different genres can benefit you:
Fiction: Fiction provides an opportunity to explore the human condition and create intricate characters and plots. Through reading novels, you can learn how authors become master storytellers. Study the Three-Act Structure and observe how other authors incorporate this method in their book. Even reading short stories can teach you how to develop engaging narratives and compelling characters.
Mystery/Thriller: Specifically, these genres excel at building suspense and keeping readers engaged. Learning how to structure and pace a story for maximum impact is crucial for any writer.
Science Fiction and Fantasy: These genres encourage imaginative world-building and exploring unconventional concepts. They can inspire you to push the boundaries of your creativity.
Historical Fiction: Historical fiction requires meticulous research and the ability to transport readers to another time. This genre can teach you the importance of attention to detail and authenticity.
Non-Fiction: Non-fiction books offer insights into real-life events, people, and ideas. Reading non-fiction can help you improve your research skills and the art of presenting facts and information in a captivating manner. In addition, if you’re interested in writing fiction, I recommend reading books about how to write.
Poetry: Poetry hones your ability to convey emotions and ideas in a condensed form. It teaches you to choose words carefully, making each one count, a valuable skill in any form of writing.
The Power of Re-Reading
When I coach new authors on how to become better writers, I always recommend they reread some of their favorite books. You read it the first time for enjoyment and then read it the second time for study. Re-reading a beloved book can reignite the emotions and enthusiasm you felt during your initial encounter with the story. This can inspire you to infuse your own writing with a similar level of passion and impact.
Each time you revisit a book, you gain new insights and appreciation for the author’s craft. With each re-reading, you uncover layers of meaning and nuance you might have missed on the first read. This deepens your comprehension of the text and the writer’s intentions.
In addition, by revisiting books, you become more adept at recognizing the techniques and stylistic choices employed by the author. You can then apply these insights to your own writing.
Balancing Reading and Writing
While reading is crucial for becoming a better writer, it’s essential to strike a balance between reading and writing. As a starting point, determine when you’re most productive as a writer and as a reader. For me, I love to write in the morning and read in the evening.
If you have trouble justifying the time for reading, consider reading as a form of research for your writing projects. If you’re working on a specific topic or genre, your reading can inform and inspire your writing. It should be an essential part of your writing process.
Becoming a better writer through reading is a dynamic and lifelong journey. It’s about more than just consuming words; it’s about engaging with them, learning from them, and allowing them to shape your own expression. Whether you’re an aspiring writer or a seasoned wordsmith, the power of literature is boundless. Reading truly offers the keys to unlocking your full writing potential.
In the end, the relationship between reading and writing is a beautiful synergy. Each enhances the other, creating a harmonious creative process that can propel you to new heights in your writing journey. So, pick up a book, immerse yourself in its pages, and let the words within guide you.