Whenever authors are asked to give advice to aspiring writers, the two most common answers they will give are “just keep writing” and “read, read, read.” I can vouch for both pieces of advice as a writer myself, but in this article I want to discuss the latter of the two. In my opinion, you can’t be a writer without also being a reader.
And when I say read, I don’t just mean “legitimate” forms of literature like novels and short stories, I mean everything. Read comic books, fanfiction, newspapers, magazines, anything you can get your hands on. Everything has something different to teach its readers, something unique that you may only get from that thing.
There is so much you can learn from reading different works of literature. Everything from the different kinds of point of view, to sentence structure and grammar, to characterization. All of these bits and pieces are vital for fiction and nonfiction writers alike. You can learn more about syntax and understand it better just from reading than you might in formal classes. When you read, you subconsciously absorb all the elements that make the piece what it is, and it comes out in your writing. Stories don’t spit out facts to you and tell you to memorize them for the next exam, they use things in practice, and help you so that you may learn to implement them yourself!
Reading can also help you find where you belong as a writer and help you develop your own writing style. Reading and becoming passionate about the Young Adult (YA) genre helped me realize that it was my niche, after attempting to write many other different genres that simply didn’t work out for me. Reading first person point of view and liking it better than third person might help you learn that it’s your thing. The possibilities are endless in fiction!
Something that many writers overlook that you can learn from reading is speech patterns. Too often, I’ve noticed that every single character in a story speaks in the same way. Do you meet two people in real life with the same speech patterns? No, because that’s not how people work! Reading different forms of literature, reading characters from different places, with different patterns of speech, colloquialisms, and even catch phrases of sorts, can help you develop your own characters.
Different sorts of description and metaphor are another big thing you can learn from other writing. Dialogue was always my strong suit, yet until I joined an RPG and read my partners’ writing (a great tip that Chelsea and Zoe bring up in their article here) that I really learned to write effective descriptions myself. Period novels are also a great place to learn this sort of thing, I have found, if you enjoy that genre. If dialogue is where you find you’re lacking, try YA novels, especially in the contemporary subgenre.
Every writer has different strengths and weaknesses, so perusing different forms of literature too look at the strong points of other writers is an excellent way to develop and bolster your own craft! So read on, my fellow writers, and learn!