Wednesday, October 2, 2019

IWSG - October

It's the first Wednesday in October, so it's time for the IWSG.  This month's question is a good one and one I'm very passionate about, it turns out...

It's been said that the benefits of becoming a writer who does not read is that all your ideas are new and original. Everything you do is an extension of yourself, instead of a mixture of you and another author. On the other hand, how can you expect other people to want your writing, if you don't enjoy reading? What are your thoughts?

I don't think you can be a writer if you don't read.  

Maybe you think your ideas are wholly original, but how do you know?  You may be writing exactly the same story thousands of other people have already written.  But equally, you may be writing something no one in the world would want to read.  Or your writing might turn out to be completely un-readable.

Reading not only teaches you what good writing and storytelling looks like, it also teaches you what bad writing and storytelling is.  Without reading yourself,  I don't understand how you would even understand how to write a book.  Or why you'd want to.  I mean, why put out a product you, yourself wouldn't even buy?

I guess the argument could be made that you can learn about storytelling through movies and television shows, but there is a big difference between writing a script (or watching a film) and writing a book.  Writing for film and television is a very different skill than writing novels or short stories and the storytelling onscreen is different to that in books.  The basic structure is similar, but the execution is different. Imagine trying to write a book by describing a film in detail, including the dialogue.  It might resemble a book, but it wouldn't be a book.

As for reading making you less original, yes, maybe a few words or phrases from another author's work might get stuck in your head and unconsciously be spat out on your page, but don't they say imitation is the greatest form of flattery?  And you will be using those words and phrases in a new context in a new story and you may not even have remembered them 100% accurately.

I strongly believe that in order to be a great writer, you must be a reader.  Everything I have learned about writing has come from reading and reading widely.  It's crucial you read within the genre you're writing so you can fully understand the rules and tropes and expectations of that genre.  You can then subvert those, but to do that successfully,  you need to understand them to begin with.

It's also crucial to read outside the genre you write to learn about other styles and tropes you could draw on to make your own work stronger.  You may even discover you want to write something quite different next time...  

So get out there and read a book.  You never know, you might even find you enjoy it!


  1. I wholly agree with you. I learn something from every book I read, even if it's just something I don't want to do in my own writing. Which is still valuable.

  2. I'm in total agreement with you, that to be a writer, one needs to be a reader. I can't begin to count the number of out-of-the-box ideas I've gotten for stories to write simply by reading.

  3. I can't imagine not reading. In fact, I just read a chapter in a book while I ate my lunch. :)

  4. I know, right? What kind of writer doesn't read? Less original--as if! It sounds like whoever said that just wanted an excuse to be lazy.