#IWSG: Does Reading Make You A Better Writer?

It’s that time of the month again for another post with the Insecure Writer’s Support Group.

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about reading and how it can make you a better writer. It’s the one piece of advice I see time and again from published and indie authors who have been around for a long time in the business and even those who are just starting out.

I’ve always loved reading. My mom tells me that I started reading at a very early age. I can remember reading anywhere and everywhere. I’d read outside under the cherry tree in our yard. I’d read in my dad’s Ford Bronco. I’d read on the floor, in a chair, on my bed, in the bathroom, etc. My dad used to get mad at me in my early teens because I’d even read in the dark. I’d forget to put on the light. I bet reading glasses are in my future.

Since having kids my time for reading has gone down hill. I used to read about 30 books a year or more. I didn’t really count back then. There wasn’t a Goodreads challenge to help you remember. Last year I read a total of 7 books. It was the saddest year on record. I am happy to say that this year I have a new strategy and I am way ahead of any other year. So far I’ve read 12 books. I made a goal to read 40 in all but I hope to surpass that.

My strategy this year for reading is to read more in the genre I am currently writing for. My husband got me a PaperWhite Kindle for Christmas and I have been getting eBooks like it’s Christmas all year long. I love looking at the Kindle Daily Deals and finding those that are FREE or for $0.99.  I normally just read whatever I am interested in and my genre’s are all over the place. I write dramas, women’s fiction, and literary fiction. I am learning a lot about the subject matter and what elements make up these genres.

I know reading makes you a better writer. Below are five things I’ve learned so far this year as I’ve embraced this new strategy of reading.

  1. I pay more attention to what they do with their words. How are they created, combined, inspired by other words? The meaning behind a simple phrase or series of words scattered throughout the novel.
  2. I love a good book with characterization. I love getting to know what makes them tick, happy, sad, vulnerable, etc. I love the cycle of redemption with a character. I love their weaknesses and how they try and overcome them. An amazing book to me is REAL. The characters are REAL.
  3. I read to be inspired. Sometimes I get stuck on a scene or the wording of a sentence. Those are the times I set my writing aside and read something. I am always amazed at how focused reading makes me and how I am inspired to go back and fix things. Or I get an idea after reading something amazing.
  4. Read lots of different genres. There are so many new genres these days and sub-genres. I am trying to just read all over the place but within reason of my tastes  and likes. I find one element in one book and then cross apply that to another from some other book I’ve read. I think reading lots of genres helps you collaborate with the ideas in your head. I know that sounds strange but I am not sure how to say it exactly.
  5. Take notes or highlight a line or phrase you enjoy. I know this can make it seem more like research but reading is research for a writer. We are constantly looking at what makes the book we are reading great or bad. What makes it a 5 star review as opposed to a 3 star review.

“Read, read, read. Read everything—trash, classics, good and bad, and see how they do it. Just like a carpenter who works as an apprentice and studies the master. Read! You’ll absorb it.” – William Faulkner

How does reading make you a better writer?

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18 Responses

  1. Yay. I love your reading goals. I feel inspired. In fact, I also got a Kindle for Christmas, from my boys, and I just downloaded a book from another blogger. It looks great. I like reading on the Kindle and real paper books. Both are good. The Kindle is sure handy on trips!
    Play off the Page

    • R.K. Grow says:

      Yes, I am finding I like my Kindle more and more. Although, I still love the smell of a paperback or hardcover book. I love hearing the pages turn. Call me crazy. eBooks are making it so easy to just consume reading and to discover new authors for free or a very small price. Mary, I am off to check out your website. I love food reviews, etc. Nice to meet you and thank you for stopping by and leaving a comment.

  2. Hi, R.K.m reading from an early age has helped me to be a better writer. I read widely and I think that love of words has helped me tremendously.

  3. I have loved reading since I was a kid too. As a writer time is so scarce but I know that reading absolutely helps my writing and if I am stuck, stopping to read a book in another genre usually works like magic. Great advice!

  4. Hah yes! As soon as I read your title I thought, “Yes, as long as you are at least a little critical while you read!” I just took a writing course and it has made me so much more critical in the short run, because I keep thinking about what we talked about in class. I love it. 🙂
    ~AJ from Naturally Sweet
    An April A-Z co-host

    • R.K. Grow says:

      Hi AJ! I agree with being a little critical. I do that when I read and I’ve noticed the more I learn about writing, the more I look for certain things and it makes me more of a critical reader. I do however, have to read the occasionally fluff so I can clear my brain.

  5. Diane Burton says:

    I love to read. I read in all the places you did as a kid. The bathroom was my fav place. Not good with one bathroom for nine people. LOL I start out reading a book to see what I can learn. If it’s a great book, I’ll get so wrapped up in the story that I forget. Then, oh darn, I’ll have to reread the book. 🙂

    • R.K. Grow says:

      Diane that is so true. That is why there are certain books that I read once-a-year. Chaim Potok is a master and I love reading My Name Is Asher Lev. Each time I read it I find something new or I realize why I love it so much. He is a wonderful storyteller.

  6. I love reading too. It seems I go in spurts. Read everything in sight, then read nothing while I write, write, write. I had one reader highlight her favorite phrases from my last book. It’s such a cool idea and I’m going to start doing that when I read on my kindle.

    • R.K. Grow says:

      Charity it’s feast or famine for me too. I read 3 books in a few weeks and then I take a break. I love being able to highlight on my Kindle. And I think it’s cool that if anyone else has marked the same passage it tells you how many times it’s been marked. How neat to have readers highlight your books.

  7. Reading is essential if we want to write. You listed great reasons there.

  8. emaginette says:

    It all started with a good story. I never read a book looking to become a better writer. I read for the love of story. I write for the same reasons. 🙂

    Here’s my link if you’d like to drop by 🙂

    Anna from Shout with Emaginette

  9. I love my Kindle. I have a Goodreads challenge going on and my goal is 42 for the year. I’m reading book #15 right now and I found from last year, the first year I did a reading challenge and actually kept track of what I was reading, that my writing improved the more I read. Plus, reading just kind of helps the imagination along and seeing the word choices, the syntax, is an education for a writer.

  10. Last year my reading was pretty sad, so this year I set a GR goal. So far, so good. =) Since I’ve started writing, I have learned from reading. Not consciously. I totally escape in a book, but unconsciously, I’ve been picking up things.

  11. Hi there!

    I just stopped by to check out your blog. I’ve signed up for yet another year of the A to Z Challenge and look forward to reading many, many posts next month…;~)

    Take care,

    Donna L Martin
    http://www.donnalmartin.com
    author of THE STORY CATCHER (Anaiah Press 2015)
    coauthor CHICKEN SOUP FOR THE SOUL: ANGELS AMONG US (Simon & Schuster 2013)

  12. Mandy says:

    Love this post. My goal this year is to read 2 books per month and it has been stressful and difficult so far. The hope was that all of this reading will make me a better writer. And you are totally right that it definitely helps in terms of creativity. I had never heard of the IWSG until today, and I may have to give them a look. (Apparently a lot of A-Z bloggers participate!) Thanks for the encouragement and reminder to keep reading! 🙂

    • R.K. Grow says:

      So glad you loved the post Mandy. I was doing so great with reading so far this year and now I am back to not having read a book in a month. Too many other things are going on. Life just gets busy. I’ve been trying to just read on Sundays and on Saturdays but it doesn’t always happen. Definitely check out the IWSG. You’ll love the group. There is also a FB component to it and I really feel support from there. So much help. Good luck on your A-Z challenge. I popped on over to you site and need to get back there and comment. Thank you for stopping by!

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