Read as a Writer

Do You Have to Read a Lot to Be a Good Writer?

Last Updated on by Michael Brockbank

Over the years, I’ve met a few people who feel they can be successful writers without reading much content. While there may be some exceptions to the rule, this is actually counterproductive. So, how much do you have to read before calling yourself a good writer?

The short answer is a resounding, “lots!”

However, this comes with a bit of an asterisk. Reading a lot of books doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll become a good author. Just because you ripped through the Harry Potter series, doesn’t mean you’ll match JK Rowling’s talent or success.

In fact, I know a lot of avid readers who are incapable of duplicating the same kind of engagement even to the slightest degree. You need to have some kind of storytelling finesse, especially if you want people to buy your books en masse.

Let’s break down why it’s beneficial for any writer to read more than just social media posts or comments in Discord.

Why You Should Read a Lot as a Writer

Writing is a skill; and just like any other, it requires practice and understanding. For instance, take your favorite sports star. Do you think he or she stepped into the limelight because they simply practiced the sport?

If you don’t know how the game is played, how do you expect to succeed?

While there may be a few exceptions to the rule, most successful writers will read as much, if not more, than they create. So, why is reading a prerequisite to being a good writer?

Understanding Audience Engagement

First, how do you know how to engage the reader in the open paragraph? What are you going to do to keep the reader turning the pages? Are you even interested in a specific niche?

There are two major concepts of becoming a best-selling author: marketing and audience engagement. If you can’t deliver a gripping tale that a lot of people want to read, no one will want to read it.

The same goes for being a blogger or a freelance writer. If you can’t keep an audience’s attention, you won’t make nearly as much money.

When you read various forms of content, you’ll start to understand how another writer can keep your attention. What are you doing to duplicate that kind of success?

Finding Your Own Style

Every writer has a unique style and flow. Although there are elements that are similar from one writer to another, they often always have that little something that sets them apart from the others.

This is why Stephen King and Dean Koontz can have different readers even though they are both authors of the same niche.

Reading how another writer establishes themselves can help you create your own style and flow. What would you do differently in the content? How could you describe the scene better? What things do you not like about the writer’s style?

Questions like these can be answered when you take the time to read the works of others.

Knowledge is in the Content

One person I know all but refuses to read blog posts regarding how to write a blog post. Yet, they constantly ask me how to do so. My response is to read my blog posts.

You’ll learn a great deal about writing any kind of content when you read what experts have produced.

In order for me to become the successful freelancer that I am today, I read an incredible amount of content regarding my trade. This included everything from college literary courses to search engine optimization.

Yet, it was more than just reading the text. I also had to put that knowledge into practice while understanding why structure is vastly important.

Learning Format, Pacing, and Storyline

Do you know how to properly end a dialogue with punctuation? When should you double-space between paragraphs? How much detail is necessary to get your point across without boring the reader to tears?

All of this can easily be learned by reading more books or taking a course in writing. You can also find a lot of this info through various blog posts with a simple Google search.

Regardless of what method you choose, you’re still reading.

Well, unless you take to YouTube. In this case, you’re technically reading the text the video creator is using to demonstrate the purpose.

My point is that when you read a lot of books and content, you’re learning the proper elements you’ll need as a writer. From understanding search intent for blogging or keeping a reader’s eyes glued to a page as an author, reading is relevant to perfecting your skills.

Balance Reading and Writing

Balance Reading and Writing

As a writer, this doesn’t mean you spend every waking moment perusing through a book. After all, you still want to write your story, right? Yet, there needs to be some kind of balance if you want to succeed.

In my case, I spent a lot of time learning my craft while working with clients and practicing with my own articles. Remember, you still need to practice implementing the things you learn.

Even today, as a blogger, I still read a ton of articles regarding various topics. It’s actually a massive part of my job as the Content Marketing Team Lead. I can’t assign the work to my team of writers if I don’t know what we need and what is currently working.

So, you need to find a balance between reading and writing. The more you understand what goes into any given piece of content, the better you’ll tackle the same when it comes to writing you’re own masterpiece.

Not to mention that there are a lot of talented authors out there. If you don’t want to view reading as a form of mundane research, do it for fun. How can you ask others to enjoy your work if you’re not willing to enjoy that of other people?

It Takes More Than Spelling and Grammar as a Writer

Just because you’re capable of spelling well and have near-perfect grammar, it doesn’t mean you’ll be any good as a writer. Regardless of the type of content you create, you still need to present the text in a way that people will want to read, in the first place.

Are you capable of articulating a point in a concise manner? Does your writing confuse people who read the text? Do you put way too much detail in your manuscript because you think it’s necessary to describe the scene?

Don’t get me wrong, spelling and grammar are vastly important. You want your content to be well-written, professional, and grammatically correct. But it takes more than sentence structure to grab the attention of a reader.

This is actually one of the reasons why storytelling works so well for blog posts. It takes a bit of trial and error to get it right. But when you do, you’ll see the on-page time grow quite a bit in Google Analytics.

The same can be said about your book. If you’re not grabbing the reader’s attention as quickly as possible, he or she is going to stop. Instead of having a “real page-turner,” they’ll review the book three years down the road when they finish reading it…if they even finish at all.

Read What is Relevant as a Writer

When it comes to the type of writing you want to dive into, read what is relevant. For instance, screenwriting is very different from blogging or whipping out a manuscript for a novel. So, reading how to blog would be quite pointless for screenwriting.

Start by reading the most popular texts for the style in which you have an interest.

Want to be an incredible blogger? Read the most popular content from various brands to see how it’s done.

Looking to publish a horror novel? Dive into some books.

Eager to submit your screenplay to Netflix? Read some of the greatest screenplays that are publicly available.

Then you have someone like me who is a Jack of All Trades. This means I read just about everything simply because I create a wide variety of content. Not only am I writing for myself, but I also have to make clients happy.

It’s not an easy life, but it’s one I’ve built a career upon.

Need help writing your book? Knowing how to structure your manuscript can go a long way to providing a better exeperience for your readers. Take a look at the Reedsy Masterclass for How to Write a Novel. It was perhaps the most influential three months I’ve spent for crafting my books.

Author, Blogger, Freelancer…It’s All the Same

There is a reason why I cover various forms of writing on this website. To me, it’s all under the same massive umbrella as a writer. In fact, a lot of the same principles apply regardless of the type of writing you perform. When you think about it, writing a book is similar to writing a blog post.

It’s all about:

  • Engaging an audience
  • Understanding proper structure and flow
  • Delivering a message (whether it’s fact or fiction)
  • Marketing

This is oversimplifying writing to a degree, but these four points matter whether you’re writing a review on your blog or creating your next work of dark fantasy. And when you read like-minded content, you only improve your abilities as a writer for that style.

The bottom line is that you can’t expect to meet the demands of an audience if you have no idea how. Don’t just sit at your keyboard and assume that anything you type will come across as an amazing work of art.

How Much Do You Read as a Writer?

The gist of all this is how can you expect to be a good writer if you don’t have the ambition to read? You can absorb so much from reading on top of the entertainment value.

Not everything can be taught in a video. And reading can expand your knowledge in more ways than you might realize.

Michael Brockbank
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