Reading, whether it be novels, news, blogs or any other form is incredibly important for writers and non writers alike. There’s no denying the adage that, ‘to be a writer, you must first be a reader.’ Living vicariously through fiction is not only stress reducing and entertaining but can be really educational. Not having tried this but, I’m pretty sure Dan Brown has taught me to navigate Paris, Rome and Washington through his books (o:
On a more serious note through reading is something that, as a writer, is paramount when it comes to learning the craft and judging where your skill level sits compared to many of the prolific and great novelist. I don’t compare myself directly because that would be depressing but I look to see what I feel I’ve gotten to grips with whether it be characterization, plot twists, story arc or the myriad of other literary aspects that go into developing a story of any length. This analysis teaches me where I need to focus my learning efforts.
Some writers read at a phenomenal pace. One recent response to a blog post I read said the commenter read 6-7 books a week. I would love to be able to do this but, sadly, I’m not. I get through, on average 1-2 a week of varying lengths. This is on top of online reading including blogs, sites and other creative writing pieces such as online magazines, short stories and poetry. All of this goes into making me a better writer by teaching me what constitutes the good, the bad and the ugly of writing in general.
In regards to genre of novel or story, I feel it’s beneficial to move around. For most of my teenage years and beginning of my twenties I only read horror. I couldn’t get enough of it. Eventually though, nothing shocked me unless is was written for shock value alone and if so, I wouldn’t bother reading it anyway. Once I found I needed something else I decided to read other genres and I think I’m much better for it. Although I haven’t always enjoyed the read, I feel I gleaned some knowledge about the craft of writing from it. The knowledge may be subconscious and not overtly acknowledged but I feel it is still influential.
This leads me to identify the way a reader reads vs the way a writer reads. As a reader I simply want to be swept up in the story, to lose myself for a while. As a writer I want the same as a reader but I also want to look more deeply into how the author created their work. Open the hood to see what’s underneath. Sometimes this is easy, most of the time its difficult and I find I need to know the authors work well in order to do this effectively.
So what do you read and how often or how much? Also do you read across genres or stick to a particular one?