Do authors also need to be readers?

Every author that has a blog seems to write of the need for authors to be avid readers so here is my turn.

books uid 1269725Yes, 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.”

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8 thoughts on “Do authors also need to be readers?

  1. Reblogged this on Chris The Story Reading Ape's Blog….. An Author Promotions Enterprise! and commented:
    Call over to Susan’s blog and share YOUR thoughts about this 😀

  2. I’m here from Chris the Story Reading Ape’s blog. This is a great post. You’ve made a very valid point. There are different types of reading materials. Fiction is the only type of book people can or should read. I do think writers should read. I understand there often isn’t time to do both. When I began writing, I had a difficult time finding balance. For a while, I barely read at all. Now I’m back to reading too much, often to the detriment of my writing.

    There’s a strange new breed of writers popping up. These writers don’t enjoy reading, and aren’t afraid to admit it. In fact, they barely read at all. And guess what? Their writing reflects that. I do think people should read what they like – and that’s what they should be writing. You said you write the stories you like to read. That’s what we should all do.

  3. I don’t have much time to read fiction these days. I LOVE reading good popular history books. I get tons of ideas and like you I’m just in it for a good story with characters I care about.

  4. I like the quote by Faulkner. I would read all day if I had the time.

  5. D.T. Nova says:

    I’ve also seen the more specific advice “every writer should read things in the same categories that they write in”, and I think that’s reasonably sound.

  6. I think it was Steven King that said something to the effect of: Good writers do two things: they read a lot and they write a lot. I certainly agree.

  7. leamuse says:

    When a meet a non-booklover, I feel sad for them. They miss so much!

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