Read if You Want to Write


From the time I was a young girl until now that I’m a grandmother, I have loved to read. Anything from inspirational reading to self-help books to clean romance novels, I devoured these books. I’ve also read through the Bible several times and have read many of the books it contains countless times. If you stacked up all the books I’ve read, I imagine the stack just might compete in height with a high-rise building (I’m probably not exaggerating.)

Now that I’m writing and publishing books, I realize I owe the easiest part of my writing to the years I spent reading. I’m not saying that writing isn’t hard work for me, but when a part of the writing process becomes easy, it’s almost always due to the fact that I’ve read a lot of books. Words that are not necessarily a regular part of my vocabulary come to the forefront as I search my brain for words to help me more clearly express a thought or action. How could that unfamiliar word suddenly be there except that I had read it somewhere.

Most of my writing is in the historical fiction genre — a genre I especially enjoy reading. The years I spent reading in that genre have given me a grasp of the language as it was spoken back then. I don’t write exactly as the people spoke in that time period because I doubt most of my readers would understand and grasp the story, but I include enough of the past to place them in the setting of that day. The important thing, after all, is the enjoyment of the reader and their ability to be swept away to another time and another place. And how did I learn to write like that? From reading many great historical fictions.

I love this quote by author, Stephen King:

“It’s hard for me to believe that people who read very little (or not at all in some cases) should presume to write and expect people to like what they have written.”   

If you want to be a good writer, you have to be a good reader. Read a lot and read broadly. And I would encourage you, for your own mental and spiritual health, read wholesome material. There is no end to the books you could be reading. I’m currently reading six books and I have 27 books I’ve downloaded and am looking forward to reading.

Please don’t tell me you don’t have time to read. Everyone makes choices as to how they want to spend their free time. My choice is to read. I carry a book with me wherever I go. On my last flight last month, I finished one book and started another. I read while waiting in a doctor’s office or while on-hold on the telephone. Instead of watching television in the evening, I pick up a book.

You certainly don’t have to be a reader. For some people, reading is just not their thing. But if you want to be a writer, you must be a reader first.