What Do You Mean You’re Not Reading?
Put Down Your Ego and Pick Up a Book
The worst kind of author? The one who never reads. Ever. If you’ve penned a book, how can you expect others to read it if you can’t even deign to pick up a book yourself?
Let’s get a few facts straight.
You’re Not Too Busy to Read
Ask any book lover out there, and they’ll tell you that they can always manage to squeeze reading time into their schedules. They’ll read in lines, on the way to work, on their lunch break—whenever they conceivably have a moment to dive into a book.
Get out of the mindset that you have to pick up a print book for it to qualify as a reading experience. Technology these days lets you read an ebook on your smartphone, and I’m sure you have plenty of time to scroll mindlessly through social media. Read instead. If ebooks aren’t your jam, take an audiobook for a drive. Literally. Yeah, listening to a book is reading, too.
We’re not reading purists around here.
You have time to read if you make time. And you should.
After all, if you don’t read other books, how will you be able to describe the advantages your book has over your competition?
You’re Not Likely to Accidentally Plagiarize
Many authors don’t read books because they’re afraid of picking off other people’s ideas or plagiarizing. One, “original ideas” likely aren’t that original. Someone somewhere has already had the same idea; you just have to do it your way. Two, where’s your confidence in your own story?
If you’re so influenced by other people’s ideas, take a minute to think about why you yourself are writing. If you always think other people’s ideas are better than yours, why are you writing?
Take pride in your work. If you have to hunker down in drafting mode and avoid reading for a while, fine. But pick up a book once you’re finished and give yourself a well-deserved break before diving in again.
You Have to Know Genre Conventions
You have to know what readers expect when they pick up your [insert genre here] book. If you promise a fantasy and there’s no magic or anything else remotely fantastical, readers are smart enough to figure that out, and they’re going to be pissed.
If you deliver a romance novel without a happily ever after (or HEA, for those in the know), you’re going to anger readers. They’re going to want to throw your book across the room and complain about wasted time and money, because they read romances specifically for the HEA.
Breaking genre conventions is fine—if you know what they are in the first place and why you’re breaking them. And how do you learn genre conventions? By picking up a book in that genre and reading it. Then pick up another one. And another one. And so on, until you begin to see patterns. Use those (or subvert them) to your advantage.
You Should Enjoy Books
If you don’t enjoy books, why are you writing one?
It boggles my mind that someone who doesn’t like books would write a book for other people. What are you hoping to accomplish?
If you like to tell stories or you have wisdom to share with the world, great! But if you don’t enjoy books, try another medium. Start a podcast, become a motivational speaker, or create a YouTube channel and vlog. Books aren’t the only way to get your message or story out into the world.
Even if you put your story in another medium, you should still consume books in some capacity. Try audiobooks. Hell, try story-based video games. Learn the fundamentals of storytelling, because those will help you regardless of which medium you use to broadcast your own story.
Reading Makes You a Better Writer
If you take away one point from this article, let it be this one: Reading makes you a better writer. You learn what works—and what doesn’t. You learn how to tell a story or deliver your message by studying what others have done before you.
At times, you’ll find yourself humbled by the amazing writers currently publishing. Other times, the not-so-great works you dig into will give you a much-needed confidence boost. Either way, by breaking apart these books and analyzing them, you’ll learn how to be a better writer.
And that is why you need to read.
Amanda Shofner satisfies her desire for adventure with the written word and helps others do the same. Currently writing romantic suspense.