read the type of books you write

5 Reasons to Read the Same Type of Stories You Write

5 reasons to read the type of stories you writeAside from writing itself, reading is the single most important element in a healthy writing life.

As Natalie Goldberg and Stephen King, respectively, point out:

If you read good books, when you write, good books will come out of you.

If you don’t have the time to read, you don’t have the time or the tools to write.

Specifically, you should be reading the type of stories we want to write. Why? Here are five reasons.

1. Because They Make You Envious

Yep, you read that right. If you’re not reading stories that make you drool with envy over the author’s ability to craft fascinating characters and string together beautiful word pearls, you’re not setting the motivational bar high enough. Read enough authors who make you think, Oh, I could never write like this, and you may one day surprise yourself by writing like them.

2. Because They Show You How It’s Done

You’ll find no better place to learn than at the feet of the masters. When you read a story you wish you’d written, take note of the techniques that worked and the elements you particularly loved. Then put those components to work in your own writing.

3. Because They Convince You of the Worth of Writing

Sometimes it can be easy to doubt the worth of writing, particularly after you’ve logged a long writing session in which nothing went right. When you find yourself asking “What’s the point?”, dig out a good book. After closing that back cover, you’ll probably have remembered why crafting stories is worth the struggle.

4. Because They Remind You How Your Dream Started in the First Place

As Susan Sontag points out,

Reading usually precedes writing and the impulse to write is almost always fired by reading. Reading, the love of reading, is what makes you dream of becoming a writer.

5. Because They Teach You to Avoid Clichés

By familiarizing yourself with the salient and common points of your genre, you can learn which elements have been overdone. It’s a mistake to believe reading widely in your genre will sap your originality by causing you to subconsciously copy other authors. The truth is just the opposite. Read widely, so you know what’s original and what isn’t.

***

A writer who doesn’t read is like a race car that avoids pit stops. You can’t keep racing forever without stopping to refuel. Just as you set aside a daily time to write, make sure you’re also setting aside time to read. When you read the type of stories you write, you’re doing legitimately important research, and don’t let anyone tell you differently!

Wordplayers, tell me your opinion! What’s the last book you read that inspired you as a writer? Tell me in the comments!

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About K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland

K.M. Weiland is the award-winning and internationally-published author of the acclaimed writing guides Outlining Your Novel, Structuring Your Novel, and Creating Character Arcs. A native of western Nebraska, she writes historical and fantasy novels and mentors authors on her award-winning website Helping Writers Become Authors.

Comments

  1. @Carol: Yep, and it’s so much better to figure out an idea is *not* unique while it’s still a concept, rather than after you’ve written the first draft.

    @Steve: Better get cracking! 😉

    • Should someone who wants to self publish only read self published books in their genre when it comes to see what’s been done in the genre? Because there are lots of traditional books I like to read as well as self published but I don’t want to limit myself to reading only indie books if I see an interesting blurb on a book in my genre that happens to be traditionally published

      • K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland says

        No, definitely read trad books too. Genre is genre, regardless the publishing medium.

  2. Victor Hugo’s Les Miserables.

  3. Haven’t read Les Miserables yet, but I’m very much looking forward to it.

  4. Beckett’s “Endgame” has so many perfectly intertwined themes and motifs that I do wonder if I could ever top that.

  5. You can only try! You may end up exceeding even your expectations.

  6. This is so true! When I first read HUNGER GAMES I thought heck, I can never write a book that good. But I sure learned a lot from that book.

  7. Books that make us uncomfortable, in the sense that they challenge us to be better writers, are often the most useful tools in our libraries.

  8. Some points you’ve made might have the opposite effect, that you will end up losing your own style and inheriting someone else’s- while it’s true you can learn a lot by examining others, it can be a double-edged sword.
    take care,

  9. I have to disagree. The more we read – in both our own genre and others – the more likely we are to gain a broad view of literature in general and, in so doing, discover and refine our own unique styles.

  10. @Steve Garufi “I especially don’t like reading books in my genre, because I’m afraid I’ll become jealous, depressed or will lose my originality. I need to get over this.” My thoughts exactly.

    The books that influenced me to want to be a writer when I was a kid: The Neverending Story, The Last of the Really Great Whangdoodles and Half Magic. I read those books over and over again in my little corner of the library.

  11. “Little corner of the library” – sounds great to me! Much as I love the digital revolution, the potential fading of libraries into the dusty background is a decided disadvantage.

  12. Loved your first point; I didn’t think jealousy could be so positive.

  13. Whenever possible, I like to take the negative emotions and flip them on their heads. Never know what new things you make glean as a result!

  14. J.R.R Tolkien’s stories are what really made me sit back and think, “Wow, I wish I could do that!” and the author KCS on FanFiction.net really inspired me to actually write down a few of the crazy stories running around in my head.

  15. And just think about all the up and coming authors you could inspire yourself in a few years!

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