Write Better by Reading

This is not a revelation, as this is a very well-known fact.  If you write, you most likely read.  And while reading, you are subconsciously taking in new techniques and vocabulary.  I think this is extremely important.

I’m currently reading Deadhouse Gates by Steven Erikson, and I’ve noticed how his writing draws me in to the world so easily.  I feel like I’m there.  Without concentrating on how he writes, I just let the voice continue in my mind while I started narrating a scene of my own.  I tried using the same style of narration, particularly the action and the descriptions of facial expressions, and found I came out with a more authentic and captivating scene.   It worked.

I wasn’t stuck in the Malazan world when thinking of my own story, but the same general richness transferred over to my own thoughts.

How much do you think reading helps your writing?

15 thoughts on “Write Better by Reading”

  1. I have to feed my brain periodically or I end up chasing the same fragments of story around in circles and not getting anywhere. Spending some time thinking about a story that isn’t mine helps a lot.

    I think I imitate other author’s fiction in small bits as a scene or character seems to call for it, rather than an overall ‘I want to write like THIS person.’ I don’t know, though — no one has ever told me that I write like a particular author. (That “I Write Like” program online doesn’t count. It’s silly.)

    1. I read so many different authors (and usually two at once) that I don’t think I can just copy styles. I don’t want to, anyway. I want to write like me, not someone else. However, I learn from other styles and try to incorporate elements into my writing.

  2. I know that the reading I do influences my writing, bit I honestly haven’t been able to figure out just how. Other than the fact that after reading older writing I have to watch my sentence length…. So I suppose it would reason that other authors stylistic choices have an impact, just perhaps a little less noticeable

    1. I’m not exactly how my writing is changed by reading, but I do notice a difference. It’s really hard to pin it down to just one change, though. Maybe just an influence.

  3. Reading has helped me so much, by expanding my character palettes, voice and style, but, probably the most important thing it has done (since I read in a variety of genres) is that it has taught me how to make my own genre writing stronger by borrowing the techniques of other genre styles. (Crime fiction for tension, Historical/biography for exposition, etc.)

    1. That’s a good point. I personally like to have a high degree of realism in my writing, particularly in science fiction. Fantasy, on the other hand, doesn’t have to be as realistic, but it really depends on my mood. I like both the dark and gritty fantasy, as well as the lighter, more adventurous fantasy. They both have an impact on my writing.

  4. As a teacher of English I can’t stress how important reading is to improving writing. It’s the same as an athlete not training and not having a coach – raw talent will only go so far.

    1. Good point. Also as a teacher of English, I encourage anyone studying language (whether to learn the language or to learn better writing) to read, as they can get many things out of it, such as style, vocabulary, and grammar.

  5. I’ve learned so many expressions and ways of thinking from reading that I never got exposed to in my old life. I read my old blogs and writing (from like middle school) a couple years ago, and the language and expressions I used were so limited and un-rounded that it approaches hilarity.

    1. I must read your oldest posts! I know what you mean. I’ve looked at some of my oldest posts on my Japan blog, and I feel there’s a difference there, too.

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