Creative Writing · Reading · Writing Resources · Writing Tips and Prompts

Reading Like A Writer

Writers read differently than other people. It’s a simple fact. The more you learn about writing, particularly by doing it yourself, the more you notice about how other writers write. Reading voraciously is the best way to learn how to write. But don’t just take my word for it.

If you don’t have time to read, you don’t have the time (or the tools) to write. Simple as that. – Stephen King

The greatest part of a writer’s time is spent in reading, in order to write; a man will turn over half a library to make one book. – Samuel Johnson

Read, read, read. Read everything — trash, classics, good and bad, and see how they do it. Just like a carpenter who works as an apprentice and studies the master. Read! You’ll absorb it. Then write. If it’s good, you’ll find out. If it’s not, throw it out of the window. – William Faulkner

You can take all the creative writing classes in the world and read every book that’s ever been written about writing, but if you are not reading you cannot learn how to write. It’s as simple as that. I’ve learned much from books and more from an excellent creative writing professor. But I’ve learned even more just by reading.

I’ve learned what satire is from Jane Austen, and that sometimes it can go over your readers’ heads so much that they think you are just writing romance novels. J.R.R. Tolkein taught me about fantasy world-building. I learned from C.S. Lewis that you can let your faith show in your writing without just being labeled an “inspirational novelist.” Fairy tales taught me about story arch and character archetypes.

Other times, specific writers have inspired a specific type of writing. I was blocked trying to write a story that demanded a bold, experimental style until I read Charles Yu’s How To Live Safely in a Science Fictional Universe. I was reading Fellowship of the Ring, and wrote an entire short story after reading the counsel scene. In both cases, I didn’t use that writer’s style, but reading their books inspired me to write something my own way.

If you’re a writer, I’d love to hear your thoughts on this topic. Which writers have taught you about writing? Who inspires you to write?

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