Recently, I discussed the process of writing with someone who wanted to write a book, but didn’t know where to start. I asked him who his favourite authors were. He replied that he didn’t really read books.
I admit, I was puzzled. For me, my love of writing began with my love of reading. I can’t divorce my first love, and I still read every single day. Most, if not all, professional writers I’ve ever spoken to tend to agree. Reading and writing go together like….books and hot chocolate, thunder and lightning, babies and gummy grins. I just can’t separate them.
The conversation got me thinking about how one learns to write. In my opinion, it’s very difficult to learn to write if you don’t read – and read widely. How do you know if a book is well-written or poorly researched? How do you know which style of writing you like best?
My genre of preference is mystery and suspense, so it will come as no surprise to learn that I read lots of mystery and suspense novels, both Christian and non-Christian. I also read political thrillers, war-time stories and even fantasy books. All of them have taught me something of how to be a writer.
From one author, I learnt how to create deep, real characters. From another, I learned how to keep the pace fast and frantic. From yet another, how to drip feed clues to the reader.
Something else I’ve gained from reading lots of books is research. When I write about a certain topic, I find novels that deal with the same issue to get an idea of what other authors do. I’m particularly interested in how non-Christian authors approach these subjects. For example, I read one of Jonathan Kellerman’s novels, Survival of the Fittest, while researching for my book, The Shadowed Mind. His book features a eugenicist killer, just as mine does. However we approach the subject from very different angles!
I encourage you, if you are an aspiring author, to continue reading widely. Try new authors and new genres. Expand your list to include non-Christian authors, if you don’t already. Seek out award-winning novels, to find out what makes them award-winning.
Do you believe that one should be an avid reader to be a good writer?
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