Part of being a writer is reading other people’s works. And before you claim the beta reading you do as a favor to your friends is enough, I’m going to tell you that it isn’t.
Here’s why you should read lots and lots of books:
- You learn more about writing than anyone can ever teach you. By reading good books and, therefore, good writing, you absorb different styles and internalize what it means to write well. For example, I learned the art of writing long, drawn-out third-person thought processes from Robin McKinley, while Bram Stoker’s Dracula taught me how to write in the epistolary format without being corny. I could list all of the authors that have influenced me, but then this blog post would be way too long.
- You can reference other works to enhance the meaning of your story. Allusions and intertextuality make a story more engaging, encouraging readers to think critically about multiple, similar-themed books all at once. A body of works by different authors can meld together to convey a message much greater than the sum of its parts. It’s pretty cool. Reading as much as possible increases the store of knowledge upon which you can draw to add those allusions and intertextuality to your writing.
- You learn about the market. Whether you’re writing mystery, romance, fantasy, literary, or any genre, it’s important to know what other people have written so that you don’t accidentally try to publish a story too similar to one that’s already out there. You also learn what the market might be missing and then can try to fill that niche.
- You’re contributing to the community. It’s a little hypocritical to publish and then expect people to buy/read your stories when you don’t do much reading yourself, isn’t it?
- It’s generally a good thing to do. Reading rocks. Enough said.
If that’s not enough to persuade you, here’s another convincing article.
“But I don’t have enough time to read!”
Yes, you do. Carry a book with you and read between classes—especially when you have that awkward hour between classes where you don’t have enough time to go eat or study in the library. Aim for 20 minutes a day at the very least. 20 minutes isn’t that much time, but it adds up. You might only read one or two books per quarter that way, but those are one or two books that you wouldn’t have read otherwise.
You can also read these tips for reading faster.
Here’s another article about reading by the same person, but this time it’s about reading slowly and absorbing a book into your bloodstream.
Now, shoo! Go read!