The most important skill for writing is reading. In kindergarten and 1st grade, I have to admit, I didn’t like reading, cause it was hard. But once I got past the hardship, I discovered the magic and entire worlds that were hidden in the pages. Soon after, I discovered writing and it has changed me life. I never would have gotten to writing if I didn’t learn how to read.
How Reading Improves Writing
While we clearly need to know our letters and words, reading does more than just open the gate to writing. The more we read, the larger our vocabulary becomes. We only learn new words by encountering them, what better way to do that than going through an entire book of words? With increased vocabulary comes a greater ability to write. All writers have had a moment when only one word could adequately portray the intended meaning. Greater ability to express thoughts clearly comes with knowing thousands of words to choose from.
Sentence structure is an entire science with formulas and everything. Becoming familiar with language and patterns, is vital to expressing thoughts well. No one enjoys reading a confusing sentence. The structure of a sentence, including the punctuation, is what makes a collection of words understandable. While studying the structures and parts of a sentence is interesting, reading and becoming intuitively familiar with it is much easier, and probably faster.
Beyond the technical portion of writing, reading will improve creativity. With increased knowledge comes greater ideas. Reading about animals or weather patterns will allow you to use that knowledge in creating stories. Reading other novels will spark new ideas for prompts and plots.
What to Read
All reading will benefit your writing, but what is probably most beneficial is to read what you want to write. Original ideas are all borrowed from others and altered just enough. As a writer, you need to know what is current in your genre. Clearly reading will allow you to do that. Then, your writing can build upon what others have contributed. Being aware of what is in the current market will allow you to see what works and what you can add. So, read the niche you are writing for.
Other genres will allow you to find things that you can add to give your writing an extra edge. You may find new ideas and perspectives to write. What I think may be the most important is to just choose good books. Look at top reading lists and find what makes those books so great.Then incorporate that into what you write.
Another category to be sure to include in your reading diet, is writing tips and tools. Understanding how writers write is like taking an apprenticeship. But you can learn from hundreds of writers; masters, beginners, and everything in between. You can find books, blogs, websites, magazines, and quotes about writing. All of these offer wonderful doses of writing advise and an extra boost of energy to write.
How to Read
Always continue to read for fun. This keeps your interest and energy to write as well as still exposing you to a large amount of learning no matter what. Reading what you enjoy will help you write what you enjoy. This is critical, because if you don’t enjoy what you write, no one else will.
Read to keep up with the current popular books. By choosing the popular books of the time, you are able to see what readers are looking for and what they prefer. The fads in books generally don’t last long enough to join in. However, being able to pick up on the age groups’s interests and themes that seem to resinate with them will be helpful.
Looking to learn from the best books may require a variety of different ways to read. Once the best and timeless books have been chosen, identify what is so remarkable about that book or author. Use the strengths of a book to learn how to replicate the strengths. Study beautiful sentences to improve your articulation. Graph and draw out brilliant plots to know how to craft your own. Study the great aspects by identifying and scrutinizing them.
Write to Read
The goal of most writers is to be published and read. While every work is a process, there must come a time when you stop polishing, and release your work into the world. Being familiar with finished works and what they are like will allow you to recognize when your own is finished. But the greatest learning in the writing process is when you allow your work to be read. Receiving feedback helps you grow immensely in addition to understanding the strengths and weaknesses of your work.
Unfortunately I find myself thinking that I’m too busy to read. My writing project isn’t quite ready to be read, is another frequent thought. However, these are the moments that will be the most beneficial. Having time to think about what you read allows greater processing and analysis. Sharing your work to close friends or personal cheerleaders shows you the areas that need attention and points out the strong parts of the work.
Sharing your work is when “reading to write better” has a twist, but is still true. So, share a a little about what you are writing! Share your favorite book or the one you have learned from the most! Then go read and write!