If You Want To Write Better, You Have To Start Reading
If you want to be a good writer, then you must know one first. This is something I always say because it’s true.
If you want to write well then you have to read, read, READ!
There’s really no escaping this rule. In fact, it’s the almighty of all writing rules! The best writers I know frequently have a book in their hands. Writing comes hand in hand with reading. I know it sounds cliché but if you ask any writer to give you one advice on how to improve your work they’ll probably tell you what I’m telling you now.
HOW EXACTLY DOES READING IMPROVE WRITING?
First of all, when you read you will learn to be critical.
Initially, you will be able to identify which is good writing and which is bad writing.
When you’re reading something, does it entice you to keep on reading up to the end of the piece? Are you really into it or are you just forcing yourself to finish it? Was its introduction or its title good enough to grab your attention?
These questions help determine if you’re on to something good or bad.
However, if you start trailing off in the middle of what you’re reading or it all feels like a ton of work, then perhaps it’s not the piece for you.
In other words, when you’re able to identify which is good writing from bad writing based on your taste alone, you would immediately know what to avoid when you write. In my case, I really dislike descriptions that are paragraphs long, making too much to unnecessary metaphors, or narratives that lack dialogues.
Once you’ve gotten the hang of it and you’re reading a more diverse selection of pieces, you begin to notice how differently people write. This is another thing that you will start to criticize, and for me this is the best and most enjoyable one.
Though the process is always the same — — ideating, plotting, jotting it down, and concluding it — — writing is very multi-faceted. There’s just no one way to do it.
People write in different voices.
More often than not, the voice in people’s writings reflects their own. This is interesting because when you read someone’s work it’s like you’re given a peephole to their personality.
For example, my favourite authors — — J.K. Rowling and Rick Riordan — — are both brilliant writers, both have the same target audience (though Harry Potter was initially for children), but they write differently. J.K. Rowling’s writing is solely focused on narrating the story; it’s almost as if what matters to her is telling what’s on her mind. What I find really beautiful about that is she doesn’t try to sound smart and she doesn’t use heavy words (though you’re not British some terms may be a little alien to you).
Rick Riordan on the other hand is much, much closer to his audience since he took advantage of the things that matter the most to his audiences (the gadgets, the songs, the celebrities) and at the same time allowed his main character, Percy Jackson, to be a funny hero by actually letting the him narrate the story the way a teenager would.
It’s like having a sixth sense! You will start to notice this on how your friends’ write too. I am always fascinated whenever I read my friends’ works and realize how their writing mirrors their personalities.
At this point you are now noticing writing styles. As you continue to read, you will identify which writing style appeals the most to you and you would try to write the way they would. At some point as you keep writing and reading you will just write in whatever language or voice you are more comfortable in.
Voice and writing styles do not just apply to novels and essays alone. If you’re a copywriter, you must understand the voice of the brand you’re writing the copy for and to do that you have to read and review their past advertisements and capture how they talk to their market. If you’re writing a thesis, you must learn how write in an academic manner from how previous theses are written. If you’re writing an e-mail or cover letter for a company, you must know how to sound formal and there are plenty of templates you can follow after on the internet!
Finally, you will most certainly encounter words that are not familiar to you.
This scenario is very common: you read something, you spot a word that you haven’t heard of, and you consult your nearest dictionary for its definition.
Which is just another one of the greatest benefits when you read: your vocabulary widens. And whenever you write and you find yourself stuck because you’re trying to think of a much better word to fit in that sentence your brain suggests the words that you found while reading. At least that’s what happens to me.
(I actually have something more to say about this but I’ll take on that on another article).
Frankly speaking though, the suggestion to read might come intimidating for others. There are people who really love to read and it manifests in their writings, however there are also people who really couldn’t stand the idea. There’s no denying that many people would really much rather do anything else than bury their noses in a book, especially given our fleeting attention span.
My wild guess is that when people are told to read, they assume they should be reading something that’s beyond their comprehension or their interest. But that’s not true. If anything, you should be reading whatever you’re interested in. It doesn’t have to be philosophy books, or encyclopaedias, or the classics. You shouldn’t have to torture yourself by reading something that you think is beyond you, because that will only drive you farther away.
If you’re into Lang Leav’s poems, Thought Catalog essays, comic books, or anything with less than a thousand words then please go ahead! Medium is actually a great platform to start because it has a wide selection of topics that can cater to your interests.
Long story short, there are a lot of surefire benefits in reading and one of them is certainly that your writing will improve by a 100%.
Again, if you want to be a good writer, then you have to know one first. So go and read, read, READ!