How reading helps your writing (in a way you wouldn’t expect!)

No matter what sort of writer you are – fiction or non-fiction – you will somehow always stumble upon this piece of advice: in order to become a better writer, you must read a lot. It’s so true! Reading is an excellent way to motivate yourself to write. Personally, when I’m reading a great book I often think to myself, “Man, I wanna be able to write this good one day.” Reading is an amazing way to discover the type of voice you want to write with, meaning your writing style.

Reading the genre you write also acts as research, as you begin to understand what sort of things you can include to create your perfect story, from types of characters to settings.

However, there are a few things that help writers that you may not expect.

Filtering out the good from the bad

I’m sure at one point (or more) in your life, you’ve read a book that you really disliked. I’ve definitely read a few! But don’t forget about that book, especially you writers.

Instead of slating the book in your review on Goodreads, or shouting from the rooftops about how bad it was, ask yourself this question: what did I learn from this book?

Reading a book you personally didn’t like can be great for developing your writing. Why, you ask? Well, you can start to discover the things you don’t like in books. For example, there are so many books in the world that romanticise toxic relationships, mental illnesses, etc.

If your book includes any relationships, reading books like this can teach you how not to write relationships. If you are writing about a sensitive subject such as mental health, some books can teach you how not to present these issues in a way that could upset or offend others. In the writing community, we are all about writing books that make people happy! (Unless your book ends in complete tragedy… but that’s a story for another day.)

Not only this, but you can begin to pick up on how to write certain characters, such as the “strong female character”. In some books I’ve read lately, the strong female character is a teenager who has no emotion and no sort of feelings to anything whatsoever and uses this to her advantage to kick the butts of every single person who even dares to breathe in her direction. Use this to your advantage: how can you create your own strong female who has an interesting backstory and genuine motivations for her actions throughout the story?

Ask yourself this question with other types of characters you come across and you’ll soon find yourself with an amazing bunch of characters!

To wrap things up, here is an overview of my tips on improving your writing through reading:

  • Analyse what you enjoyed in the books you read and what you didn’t enjoy so much. Through this, you can start to collate the things you may want to write yourself.
  • Read the genre you intend to write in order to pick out some of the tropes/clichés and think about how you can make your book unique.
  • You can also use post-it notes or actually write in books to write about your thoughts on topics such as: the writer’s voice, vocabulary you may not understand, certain phrases, etc.

For me, reading fantasy books such as ‘Throne of Glass’ by Sarah J. Maas has been a massive help towards my writing. I am beginning to learn more about world building which has always been a struggle for me. I’m also picking up the do’s and don’ts of characterisation.

I can tell that through reading my genre, my writing style is improving every day due to picking up writing techniques such as pacing, but also the more obvious things like characters, creatures and all the fun things that come with writing fantasy.

So if there’s anything to take from this post, it’s to ask yourself questions about each book you read, good or bad. Take the negatives and turn them into positives to help with your own writing, and take the positives even further and create the best work you possibly can!

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Belinda is nineteen and lives in England. She loves reading and creative writing and is currently in the midst of writing her first fantasy novel. While she currently studies Performing Arts, it is her ambition to study Creative Writing at university and go on to publish her book in the years to come. Although she is only at the beginnings of her writing journey, she is excited to hopefully grow her platform and meet more people in the writing community.

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