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Add a reference: Book Author. Search for a book to add a reference. Apr 25, PM. We take abuse seriously in our discussion boards. Only flag comments that clearly need our attention. As a general rule we do not censor any content on the site. I had to shake myself and say, "You're a writer first. No one is ever going to pay you to read. I think a true writer can gain something from everything he reads. A reader shouldn't put up with a crappy book.

If it's not entertaining them, they aren't getting anything out of it. They should move on. A writer though, can learn to recognize why they aren't engaged in a book. That way, they can catch those mistakes in their own work. In conclusion: read, read, read, but only after you've set time aside to write, write, write. We should be well-read enough to understand HOW a given piece of writing achieves the effects that it does, good, bad or otherwise. We should preferably arrive at this understanding consciously, though I'm sure some portion of it for most writers and all of it for some writers gets absorbed totally unconsciously.

Either way, it requires a ton of reading. I wonder if the same can be asked of, say, a painter; did the great masters seek out other works to increase the level of their craft?

I don't know if writers need to read voraciously; how many people who are passionate readers choose to write? It's possible to be a reader who never authors a word. Can you be a writer whose reading is while not nil, doesn't compare to the amount written?


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I heard maybe I even read it that during one's day, Stephen King recommends four hours of writing, four hours of reading. I don't subscribe to that ratio, not even close. I read widely when younger, now over forty I write constantly, read when it strikes me. I have no idea what this means in the grand scheme of things. If I'm ever in a position of my opinion being widely sought, I will expound upon this theory in detail, just for the sake of it.

Let me explain. I'm not saying I'm right, I'm just using a similar logic. And without empirical data. So please bear with me…. It's about cause and effect. I do not think being well read will cause you to be a good writer. I do think good writers are well-read by nature. For example, I know many people who are avid listeners of music.

Audiophiles, they call themselves, but I think that sounds creepy. That does not cause them to be composers, though. I also know many people who are avid listeners and can play many instruments and fluently sight-read what's in front of them, or learn a song by ear from the radio, but can't write original material. I'm pretty sure the good writers I know are all well read unfortunately we've never had a formal survey. I think that being well-read is a by-product of their innate talent as writers, i.

Not only do I think it's important to be well read, I think writers need to focus especially on reading NEW books—not stuff that's years old. I've found that writers who refuse to read new authors, complaining that nobody writes anything good anymore, write tired, old-fashioned stuff that nobody buys anymore. Because the people who might actually like that stuff are all re-reading their old books….

I can't imagine wanting to write if you're not well read. I can't imagine wanting to tell a story if you can't determine if the story is told well. I can't imagine putting oneself through the hell that most of us go through to write if you have no measuring sticks. I write because I love to read. I write because I have read broadly in nearly every subject and genre I can get my hands on.

I write because I'm addicted to words and the images they evoke in my mind.

I write because I aspire to achieve what the great authors I've read have and because I know I can do better than the bad authors I have read. So, yeah. I agree with Faulkner. Read everything. I think a writer needs to be extremely well read. Writing is partially about putting your butt in the chair and writing, but it's also about putting your butt in the chair and reading. There is so much to be learned by watching it done right. His whole reasoning was to do something nice for them, but to also inspire them.

The looks on their faces as they watched the game were priceless and you knew that the inspiration they carried from that game stuck with them for the rest of their lives. Reading is the same thing to a writer. There's nothing like walking into a bookstore and feeling the spines of a fresh, new book. There's nothing like bringing it home and smelling the new pages as you crack it open for the first time. And nothing, absolutely nothing, can compare to the inspiration that comes from reading a powerfully written book.

I think it's a matter of likelihood. Reading a wide variety of fiction provides guidance in how to put stories together, and makes it much more likely that you'll be successful in any given writing attempt. A person could be a literary genius without ever having read a novel — just don't bet the farm on that. I write the genre I most love to read.

All those good writers were avid readers before they were writers. You don't want to be a writer without having read something. You read something and say "I want to do this. And, no, reading a lot will not cause you to be a good reader, but that's not because reading isn't generally necessary, but because there are many other factors involved.

Creative drive, discipline, talent, etc. You need some of that knowledge, but you need a lot more, too. I'm guessing Malcolm Gladwell would say you need that 10, hours of practice, and it also helps to have the opportunity, the support, necessary to apply yourself. So… pure cause and effect, no. But I'm guessing a study would show a pretty incredible correlation between writing success and reading, and that sort of correlation would strongly suggest that reading is at least one of the causal factors in producing good writing.

And Freakonomics really was good. I would say that if being well-read simply means having read a bunch of classics, then no, you don't need to be well read to be a published writer. However, I do think you need to read a lot, and you need to read a mix of what has been and what currently is being published. Not sure if you need to be well-read, but you need to read well.

Engage the book, question why the author chose a particular motivation, a particular action, a particular word in that instance. Identify what you think works. Identify what you think doesn't work. Reading doesn't do you much good if you're reading every fifth word and you're not asking yourself why the book is the way it is. You'll just end up repeating the same thing over and over again. They say you have a half million bad words to write before you get to the good ones. If that's true, then I would think you have to read ten million words before you can write good ones.

The more you've read, the easier it will be to write, and the earlier you started reading for pleasure and enjoying it, the better writer you will be for it. I believe that if you want to write well, especially in literary fiction but also in other genres, it is essential to educate yourself by reading constantly and widely. We shouldn't be writing solely for ourselves, for our own careers and our own gratification, but to make a contribution to an art form. We as writers are participants in a creative human endeavor that has a long history.

The more we read, the more we avail ourselves of the tools of our literary ancestors, and the more we can begin to formulate the nature of our own artistic contributions to literary history. Writers need to be aware of what's expected in their genre, which means read fairly widely in it and reading books on related topics or in related genres.

These days I think it's also good to have a passing familiarity with film media in the genre you're writing in. I'm talking fiction writers here. Non-fiction writers are something else entirely. I read. I'm with Faulkner on the need to read a range of books and a range of quality. I've learned a lot personally about How Not To Do Things, I've learned a lot about what doesn't work for me as a reader and which I assume won't work for me as a writer , and I've learned a lot about how to my fiction better.

I don't think more than a couple works of trash or a couple classics are necessary, unless you're deliberately trying to emulate them or you really enjoy the style. I think a lot of what it take to be a good writer comes from practicing writing. A lot also comes from being able to look at what you read, gauge the quality, see how good stories are told, and then apply those lessons to your own writing. You could read every book in the world, but if you don't practice writing or if you're not aware of how to tell a story, then you won't ever be a good writer.

Also, if you read every book everyone says you should, when will you ever find time to write or work or sleep? Yes, but as "well-read" is entirely subjective, I don't think it's possible to quantify the meaning. I have noticed that the more I write, the more discerning I've become about what I read, so I wonder if we become less broadly-read as we progress with our own craft and more well-read.

I read across genres, mostly because I am looking for a good story. Non-fiction work can provide that, as well. Once I get past a certain point in a WIP, I find it difficult to read fiction, especially in my genre, but have no problems reading non-fiction, especially if it informs my current project. I will not hold forth on the fictive nature of historical writing, as better minds than mine have explored that in detail and are still arguing it. I don't find that reading other work distorts my voice, rather that, once I get to the point where my story is all consuming, I prefer be reading the book I'm writing than one written by someone else.

I think in one's genre it would be ideal to have read good examples or at least successful examples. The more I read in any genre, though, I feel like i learn about pacing, word choice, everything! I love and agree with the William Faulkner quote. It would be very difficult for a person with the innate ability to become a fantastic photographer or movie director to actually become one if they refused to look at more than a few photographs or movies. Becoming a great writer, or even a good writer, takes a lot of hard work. There are exceptions, of course. I think you should be well read in the genre you write in to try to steer clear of reinventing the wheel.

Also, I feel that reading outside of your genre is a great way to see how other writers describe scenes, pace the story, break up chapters, etc. Although, I don't think it necessarily to read more outside of the genre you want to write in. I like to read good and bad so I can learn what distinguishes the two. Like Stephen King said, even the bad books have a lot to teach! I think well-read is defined differently by everyone, but with so many books out there, I doubt anyone has or will ever read them all. Just read as much as you can.

Eventually, you may be considered well-read. I'll agree to disagree. I stand by the non-causal relationship theory. And I'll add a caveat acknowledging that being well-read certainly improves one's writing which could have been good to begin with. Does anyone know Steven Levitt? Can we get his expertise here? Of course you need to be well-read to be a good writer. I would even agree you need to read a bit of trash along with the treasures, because you need to know what doesn't work, along with what does work, and why.

I made a pact with myself to stop watching tv at night. Instead, I get 3 random books from the library at a time, with the idea that I have to finish at least one of them. Last week I ended up picking 2 that were so poorly written, I couldn't get past the first 20 pages, and the third was well-written, but quite challenging in its language and structure.

Instinctively, I ended up choosing the third to read to the end. Someone who has a desire to write also has an desire to read good literature. Yes, I believe you do need to be well-read, in a broad range of topics. A writer should always be aware of what's currently out there as well. I don't think you should only read in the genre or type that you write, as it's simply too restricting. I define 'well-read' as someone who has read certain classics, the best writers in their genre, some literary works, and some current or new works.

I think variety in what you read enriches your life experience, which spills over into your writing. I also read newsletters from NASA which is a great place to research certain info on sci-fi stories. Most of my personal choices concentrate in the sci-fi or mystery areas, but I also read the literary novels of Hemingway, biographies of musicians, and notables like Hunter S.

Thompson, etc. Were there no good writers until there existed a sufficient library of material for one to be considered well-read?

You should be so well-read in your genre that you can point to a dozen books with a friend at any time and say, "I recommend this! And this! And I personally found studying English in college to be helpful, because while we might not live in the age of classics, there's always something about language to be learned from them. Reading outside the genre you write for is also beneficial because it shows you what your literature shouldn't be and hopefully what you're reading is amazing in ways to that genre! I believe in reading a reasonable amount in your own genre, but you don't want to get overwhelmed by a TBR pile, so I think that it's most important to at least know about what's already out and the upcoming releases.

I actually like to read things that are similar in style or plot to my novel because it helps me see what works and what doesn't. Reading outside your genre keeps your writing fresh. A decent background in classics is helpful, but I haven't read Moby Dick and I don't think I'm a worse writer for it. Whether the book is "literary" or "commercial" argh I hate those labels! You learn from the good, the bad, and the ugly.

Just read! Have to say I'm a bit on the fence with this one. I can certainly see the point that Colleen Lindsay made, in that if you aren't very familiar with the kind of story you are writing, folks are going to know. It makes perfect sense. I don't however agree that you must be well read to be a good writer.

I definitely doesn't hurt, and generally will only help to improve one's writing. Reading also is a great provider of inspiration and motivation. Reading a really compelling, well written story always gets my juices flowing to write. However, some folks I believe have a greater knack for good storytelling. It's just in their blood.

Personally, I'm not well read. I read maybe a dozen books a year. Much of this is more a time factor than anything else, but I also am not a fast reader. I read mostly fantasy and thrillers. The book I wrote, which Nathan is now representing, began as a thriller, albeit with some paranormal elements in it. Little did I know, that what I was writing happened to fall within the purview of urban fantasy. This is not a genre I've really read at all. Consequently, my story offers something a bit different at least I hope it does compared to the genre as a whole.

So, I did something well without actually be well read at all. I wrote the story I wanted, and that's where it happened to fall. This of course just reinforces that addage about just writing what compels you and don't worry so much about what genre you're writing for. Rick Daley asked: "Were there no good writers until there existed a sufficient library of material for one to be considered well-read?

There were certainly nowhere near as many great writers until that sufficient library of material. Nope, no good writers, but there were some guys who could make some pretty cool pictures on cave walls. I read a mix of memoir and fiction since those are the genres of my primary book projects. I find reading best sellers in these genres give me an inside view of what works.

I appreciate the genre so much more when I can see all the different approaches there are to the basic framework of fiction and memoir. I don't have issue with reading the same genre when I'm writing because of the benefits. I often read books recommended by others. When I do, I end up reading books that I may not otherwise read. Of course there is only so much time in a day to read, so I choose carefully. I only read a few books a year, and I certainly hope I don't have to be similar to all of the other books of my genre to be good.

I always thought agents were looking for uniqueness. The key phrase in that statement is "good writer". To be good at anything you must practice and do something often. Reading and writing go hand in hand. You should read what interests you and write about what intrigues you and not worry so much about what anyone might think. How can you perfect your craft if you don't study it? Being well read is vital to being a good writer. I'm not going to try to perform surgery because I've watched a few episodes on the Discovery Medical channel.

I think I would study the profession first! How can you want to be a writer and not want to read constantly? Its not whether you should or shouldn't be well read…how can you stop yourself? I write children's lit and I've read this advice from a couple children's writers: "read books like the one you want to write. Of course, this can be accomplished a lot faster if you're writing picture books than middle grade novels. But I think the gist of the idea is still valid: get out there and take in a nice broad sampling. I don't keep count and don't sweat it too much, but just try to run with the spirit of that rule and always have something in the cue at the library—maybe a title I hear a lot about but have never read, maybe the next selection for my children's lit book group having someone else choose the title forces me out of my box a bit or maybe something by a writer coming to town soon.

All these have been good ways for me to pick up something I might not otherwise. I think the idea that your voice will be overpowered by reading other people's work is a bit loony. Would a musician only compose and never listen to other music? Alas, as with everything in writing, there's more than one way to do it. So maybe that actually does work for some people. It's interesting that you chose no for needing to be well read, and that you didn't consider yourself well read… and yet at a dozen books a year, compared to most of the world, you're probably very well read indeed.

I own a bookstore, and a dozen books a year is quite a bit more than average, and this is among people who do read, and who do like and buy books. And when you add in the people who don't read books at all…. Anyway, I find this whole discussion interesting, particularly how people define the idea of well read , whether overtly or incidentally. I rated myself as not well read also, and it depends on my time but 12 books a year seems like a good average for me. You did notice Jim said he had never read his own genre of urban fantasy before. I think that's cool and can't wait to read his book.

I expect it to be totally different from everyone else's, and that excites me. It is very annoying to pick up a book and see similiar writing, the same words, or plot as another author in the same genre to me. It happens often in urban fantasy. To me, well-read simply means having read a lot of books. Adults often get busy. When I was in college and graduate school, I mostly read textbooks and reading assignments. Of course you have to be well read. Would a horse trainer attempt to train a horse without riding quite a few? A writer should be well read, reading the bad stuff along with the good, so they can learn the difference between the two.

I personally have always been a heavy reader, from about 5 years old on. Coming from a small insular Canadian city it was my first glimpse of worlds beyond. It's one of the things that led me to leave home when I was 22 and move to L. I think reading is essential to writers. You don't learn this stuff by just wanting it to happen. No one comes out of the womb with the ability to create beautiful sentences or understanding on how to craft compelling characters. Medical students are expected to observe other surgeons at work.

Then they read about all the things they are expected to know. Then they do it themselves, first on corpses, then under supervised conditions then as real doctors. You want a doctor who tells you, 'no, I never watched anyone do this before, but trust me, I know what I'm doing? I personally wouldn't trust a writer who told me they didn't read.

I also think you need to read outside your chosen genre, at least occasionally. To be well read indicates more than a passing familiarity with the classics and great novels and poetry. I notice that writer's who are not well read tend to misuse words and have more limited vocabularies. I'm not talking about long, obscure words, but some of the best words in the language. I don't believe that a person can be a writer in any medium that they are not familiar with.

If you write books, you should read books. If you write screenplays, you should watch movies. If you write jokes, you should read comics or watch comedians. You should actively participate in the medium you wish to work in. If not, as a participant myself, I really have no interest in your contribution. And guess what? It probably isn't very good. To me, Faulkner is spot on. Well-read is everything. You definitely need to be well-read in the genre you write in, but reading heavily in it while you write? Not a good idea. Definitely, to be a good writer, you should be well-read.

I'm convinced of it. And not just within your genre, but beyond as well. If nothing else, at least you'll be better equipped to know the agents you want representing you, the market your writing best fits in, and become more viable to publishers. And by reading cross-genre, you might find that your own writing might be better suited elsewhere. The trends ebb and flow like the ocean, so being well-read is equivalent to being a well-educated, consumer aware, business savvy author. Key word: author. Jim Harrison said the same thing as Faulkner, when he said, paraphrased "To be a good writer, one should read the whole of Western literature for the past years, and… if you live long enough, the same years of Eastern literature.

For if you don't know what passed for good in the past, how can you know what's good today? I don't think it's important, necessarily, to be well-read to be published, but I do if you want to produce quality literature. There are many books published by people who are obviously ill-read, and if that's all that's important to one, then fine. But, if a writer desires to write well, I don't see how it's possible without following Harrison's and Faulkner's advice. Publication, in and of itself, is no gauge of quality. I think you have to read all the time and don't just read the books from the last ten years — go back and read as many books as you can from the last 50 years.

It's amazing to watch the cycles in literary work especially.

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Do You Need to Be Well-Read to Be a Good Writer?

I have a question for you… It goes along with this idea in a way. How do you think blogging has helped your writing? Does anyone feel it's helped in their endevors to become a "good writer"? Just something that occured to me…. Plus, how can you be original if you don't know what's been done before you? I know Ben Bova who edited Analog at one time said he could tell when a writer who sent him a story didn't know the genre — their stories were so cliched he could recognize them in a line or two.

He actually came up with a list of the ten most used plots. You'd only avoid them if you were well read in the field. I don't know if life experience is necessary. I think having a sense of human nature and motivation is helpful, but given the success of some young wildly talented writers I don't know that living a full life is truly necessary. I think you're right that it's more about the observing of life.

Blogging got me in the habit of writing quite often, although it's hard to say how much it helped my fiction. Being well-read helps but there's no perfect equation. Having an MFA doesn't equal success as a writer. But drawing from a depth of well-written literature and having an understanding of that literature helps writers. What about those gifted writers born with a pen in their hand who can spin off fiction like crazy, with or without being well-read? The reason why I asked, is because I think it's helped me write my thoughts more quickly and formulate them better in all areas of writing.

I see things I may have missed previously. I would put writers born with pen in hand in the same category as Einstein. A genius, and very, very rare. I'm not sure I've ever actually heard of one. Do you have someone in mind who was that talented right off the bat? Particularly the classics within your genre. It is important to see the development of the genre to potentially find a "new branch" that hasn't been followed.

Example: if you are happily writing a sparkly vampire novel while muttering "Twlilight, what? Go read a buttload of vampire fiction and see how you can make yours waaaaaaaaaaaaaaaay different. If you have a modicum of talent, you will read garbage and let it stand as a warning. Like shipwrecks rusting on reefs. That being said, writing and by extension, reading garbage may have more commercial value if money's what you want. Just don't expect people to be reading it in ten years. I agree with Richard Kriheli…"well read" is tricky.

Sometimes, despite my English BA, I feel like a dolt during any "literature" category run on Jeopardy!

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I think in addition to being "well-read" whatever that is it's important to get out and just see life, stimulate your creativity. I really have no use for writers who think bitching about Bravo's TV lineup passes for literature. I think it was Stephen King who said something like… Reading something written badly is often good because you can learn from them on the "what not to dos".

There's a quote in his book "On Writing" on this very subject. Reading both good and bad writing have their perks. I think Faulkner had it right. Read anything and everything. Reading is knowledge, and you won't know your wip is original unless you've compared it to other books that are already out there. Great topic! Good writers ARE well-read in that they read a lot, learn about language and style and subject and POV from other authors whom they admire or don't.

One cannot create in a vacuum, or, at least, very rarely with that resonate with the rest of the world who has been influenced by other media you've chosen to ignore. Thanks for answering my question, Nathan. You raise a good point. Some great writers are solitary creatures, but have a tremendous grasp of how people talk and behave. Brown said: "I would put writers born with pen in hand in the same category as Einstein. However, Einstein studied his field before making his own discoveries. He struggled with math, but understood science. Newberry winner Linda Sue Parks said, at The Highlights Foundation Summer Workshop, "You should read at least books in your genre before you start writing a book.

I agree with her, you have to read a lot. But it's not just reading, it's studying someone elses work to improve your own skills. I read somewhere that Nathan reads books a year. I think he must be…. I guess it depends on how you define "good writer. I just read that Dan Brown doesn't read a whole lot, but he sure sells a whole lot.

Do sales alone make him a good writer? Maybe not. Would he be a better writer if he were more well read? I think the same question can be applied to singers or actors —do they need to have sung or at least heard all the best before they can be a good singer. They don't.

So I think the answer to your question is, no. But it wouldn't hurt you to be well-read, unless you're so well-read that you don't have time to write. I have a feeling if I ever manage to get published, most everyone on this blog will be trashing my writing. I read, but not the classics. I read for pure entertainment. Many of the books that have been trashed on this sight, I enjoy. Maybe we should step back and think, is it possible as writers that we have forgotten who we were writing for? Do we want to be literary snobs, or do we want to make people love what we do? The best-selling authors although a few did do some bashing didn't get there by trashing fellow writers; they got there by connecting with the average citizen.

And average people are usually the ones who shoot those sales into best-seller-dom. I expect to be shot down for my post, but I just couldn't stop my fingers; so I'll apologize now for any offense you may take at my words. We now have six horses, three of which I broke, other three were already trained.

My daughter now shows and wins everywhere she goes. Penny and Bo suspect each other of hiding secrets. And death comes swiftly to those who cannot resist the call of the sisters. But only Penny sees what others cannot. And she will be forced to choose: save Bo, or save herself. Back News Back Fandom Risingshadow. Back Recent Topics Search.