Every author that has a blog seems to write of the need for authors to be avid readers so here is my turn.
Yes, authors should be readers. But I believe all people (not just authors) should be readers – and by read I mean anything – novels, news articles, non-fiction books, blogs, comic books, you name it.
There is a lot authors can learn from reading: learning what has been done before, figuring out what works or doesn’t work, gaining an understanding of the language, to broaden our world, expand on ideas and to get us to think about issues. It gives us new viewpoints and different techniques for telling a story. And it can fire your imagination.
Now I don’t read as much as I would like. In my fantasy world, I could spend all day lying in bed reading. But I have to live in the real world, and there are things to be done. I am the type of reader who authors love. Once I pick up a book, I typically don’t want to put it down. I want to block out doing all other things such as cleaning up the house to working on my own novel. So when I am writing, I spend less time reading fiction.
But that doesn’t stop me from reading the newspaper daily or checking out other blogs as I work on my own. And then there is the research I do for my writing as I delve into making my worlds realistic.
But when authors typically post that authors should be readers, they usually mean fiction readers. There are countless lists of books that “every author should read.” Have I perused any of them? Nope. But I imagine that many of them list great literary works. And while I am sure those books may be good or inspiring, just because something is a classic, doesn’t mean I want to read it. I have read some of them and quite simply these would not be the books I choose to read at the end of a long day.
Everyone has their own tastes when it comes to reading. And for me, when I have time to read fiction, I am reading for the pleasure of reading. I read to get lost in the story.
That is how I write too. I write the types of stories I would like to read. There is no symbolism or greater meaning to them. I don’t write them hoping readers walk away learning a lesson. I write so they can enjoy a good story.
So should new authors read or write? It is a toss-up. You learn a lot from reading, but you can learn a lot by writing too. In a perfect world you would have time for both.
I will leave you with the words of William Faulkner. “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. Then write. If it is good, you’ll find out. If it’s not, throw it out the window.”