How does reading benefit a writer?

How does reading benefit a writer?

We’ve all asked and heard the advice, haven’t we? How do I improve writing? Read more. The pure broadness of this answer really doesn’t sit well with me. I’m not saying it’s not correct but it’s not exactly useful either. This post will delve into this question with a little more focus on what type of reading to consider and how we will be able to use our reading to our writing advantage.


What do you like to write?

This is the first question you need to ask yourself. You might like to write a specific genre, ie. thriller, romance etc, or you may prefer to write for a particular audience. Are you writing for a male, female audience for example? Or do you perhaps like to write for a younger audience? Whatever your answer is to this question, this is the type of reading that will help you. If you would like to write romantic YA novel, then that is the genre you know you need to read more. By doing this, you will soon begin to acknowledge what you find gripping and therefore what your readers will find gripping. You might even discover a technique that you really despise and know definitely what NOT to do in your own work. 


Whether you like or dislike the book – learn from it.

Just because you did not enjoy reading a certain book, doesn’t mean that you can’t learn from it. I once read a book that was given to me as a gift. At first I thought I would enjoy it but the author kept going off track to explain the characters backgrounds. It was really annoying but I persevered and realised afterwards that my books need to be more concise and fast paced. Quick task: Have a look through your books on your bookshelf and consider what you didn’t like about them. Was it plot, the way the characters were presented to you, or was it unrealistic? Once you have done this, consider what would have made it a better read. Whatever you think the improvements should be, take that advice and include it within your own writing. Remember you have been a reader here and have been disappointed with the outcome – only you as a reader can put that right by doing so in your own writing.

person writing on notebook
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Learn from your heroes.

If you have a favourite author you jump to when you pick up a new book, consider what you like about them. You might like the author because of how they grab your attention within the first few paragraphs, or you may find their dialogue really engaging. Here is were you can learn from them. If you struggle with dialogue for example, pick a scene that your author has created the demonstrates a great conversation. Now begin to analyse what makes their writing so engaging. Is it the word choice, the action that is placed in-between the conversation or perhaps it just seems effortless? Keep this scene in front of you and then have a go at mimicking this style in a scene of your own writing. You may find that this really helps you with your dialogue, you may even think that it doesn’t sound like you – and that’s okay. That just shows that you already know your own writing style.


Write a book review

Writing a book review can really help you understand the main themes of a book and help you consider how these can impact your own work. Sometimes when writing it can be easy to get lost in the genre you’re writing. However if you read a book in the genre you are wanting to write, you will be able to acknowledge any underlying themes that occur in this genre. Writing a review also helps you analyse plot, pacing and characterisation in greater detail. Sometimes the author can even write in such a way that the characters take over and drive the rest of the plot forward. However it is only with writing a book review that all of the authors hard labour of writing the book can be acknowledged.

By doing all of the above, the concept of ‘read more’ seems more solidified to me. Ultimately you can interpret the answer to the original question whichever you like. However I stand by that the concept of reading more was to be subjective to a writer’s own interpretation to their chosen genre. Feel free to have a go at my suggestions and let me know if they work for you. 

The Passion By Jeanette Winterson

Jeanette Winterson is commonly known for her novel Oranges are not the only Fruits, however I plead with the people to not just read this book. I will admit, this book was on my reading list at university; I had not even heard of it until then. Alongside Angela Carter’s Nights at the Circus, Winterson’s The Passion is also one of the novels that I greatly appreciate my university, of introducing me to.

The Passion is about a man named Henri who decides to leave his quiet village in France, to help win the war. During the war he encounters Villanelle, a venetian who wishes to return to her hometown. Although this novel is short, it does not lack emotion. This novel is intense, gripping and as its title suggests, it’s full of passion. The Passion is divided into four parts, similar to volumes, however it has no chapters. The first part ‘The Emperor’ reflects Henri’s thoughts about being in the war and his experiences that follow. The second part , ‘The Queen of Spades,’ reveals Villanelle’s background through her job at a casino in Venice.  Both of these parts in the novel lead the characters to ‘The Zero Winter.’  When their paths cross in the third part, they learn how to quickly adapt to change and what the true meaning of perseverance means. I can guarantee that you will not want to put the book down; the closer you are to the end, the more intense this novel becomes.This novel falls under several genres such as romance and adventure.

Jeanette Winterson has written The Passion so eloquently that each description should be saIMG_2235voured as they are all rich in detail. Forbidden love has been written in such a way that no one is to blame. For example, this is no Romeo & Juliet , as it was their families to blame for their suicide. With a love triangle cast, it is difficult to break as it is questionable as to whether the characters believe that they are in one. When the reader has acknowledged this, I have no qualms saying that you will feel like yelling at the book, hoping that the characters can hear you. With all of this mention of love and romance, I must insist that this novel is not all about love. Winterson’s website describes The Passion as a novel about, ‘survival and broken-heartedness, and cruelty and madness.’ The Passion questions risks as it finds the truth to what you value. Thus there is a dominant theme of gambling. Although this may seem subtle at first, it gradually appears throughout the separate parts. The Passion uses the theme of gambling to bring people closer together, by the understanding of what people want to risk, in order to get what they want. Is it possible to risk your sanity to love and to still remain in tact? So if anyone has a heart, I dare you to risk yours and read this novel. You may even find your passion within it.