Writers need to read

Jules, a regular contributor to kilobox communiqué, shares her thoughts on how reading helps you write.

Jules is a friend and colleague; she volunteers her time and energy to run FirstSigns with me, and it’s great to have her perspectives on writing and communication here at kilobox communiqué.

It might be obvious that in order to be a good writer, you also need to be a good reader, but what is a ‘good’ reader?

I have always loved reading and I find it’s a fantastic distraction from life, but it was something I had to fight for. When I was about eleven, I was reading Pride and Prejudice and it caused a furore. I was told I was too young to be reading such a book, couldn’t possibly understand it, and was just showing off. I didn’t have the confidence to argue, but I did understand it and if I came across a word I didn’t know then I looked it up. I fought back, finished the book in secret and moved on to Wuthering Heights. It had nothing to do with showing off and everything to do with my desire to be a writer. I knew even back then that if I wanted to write, first I had to read.

When it comes to fiction, there’s a great deal of elitism in the literary world. A few years ago I met up with an old school acquaintance (I’m reluctant to use the word ‘friend’) and she was horrified to learn that I hadn’t read War and Peace. I had tried to read it; I think I managed a chapter before deciding life was too short and abandoning the great lump of a thing to gather dust at the back of my bookshelves. Don’t get me wrong, I’m sure it’s an excellent book, but it didn’t engage me; not because I don’t have the intelligence, but because I just don’t have the interest.

But I do read a great deal, and I strongly believe that my avid reading from a young age has helped to nurture and develop my writing. I believe that all good writers need to read a great deal, but being a good reader doesn’t mean you have to fill your bookshelves with Tolstoy and Dostoyevsky. Reading isn’t just about a ‘story’ or ‘information’ – it’s also about subconsciously learning what works and what doesn’t. It’s about learning how sentences flow, how words are spelt, and how descriptive narrative can either enhance or obstruct a chapter. I’m certain that part of the brain processes all this information in secret while the reader just enjoys the story.

I don’t very often read the classics any more and I hate romance novels. I read a variety of science-fiction, fantasy, biography (not usually about ‘famous’ people, but ‘interesting’ people – although Russell Brand’s Booky Wook was a very worthy recent exception). I also read many books that are specific to my interests and lifestyle. But more than anything these days I’m reading blogs! My Google Reader is growing on a daily basis and I read the blogs of many of you who comment here at kilobox communiqué. Wedge frequently sends me links to blogs he knows will interest me and catching up with my Feeder in the morning seems to have replaced online newspapers for me!

I’m learning a lot from you guys. Not just by what I’m reading, but because I’m reading. I’m learning what works when it comes to blogging; how you all engage your readers and how you interact with them. Every day I learn something new from the blogs I read, and each day I’m inspired to write. I may not be reading Jane Austen these days, but what I am reading is interesting, enlightening and frequently thought-provoking. I’m learning a lot and, as has always been the case, my reading is helping my writing!


About the author

Jules runs the largest eraser emporium in the world (AFAIK) and you can find out more at originalerasers.co.uk
Jules also runs FirstSigns with me, and is a keen writer with an eye for detail like an electron microscope.

  1. I’ve always enjoyed reading from an early age after being encouraged by my parents. I also have not yet read War and Peace but I did get a merit from my English teacher fir reading Lord of the Rings while at school.

    I have not put my mind to writing anything substantial, only dabbling in a few newsletters and web pages. Maybe I should get my head into some proper books and try to cut down on all the sci-fi I read.

  2. Oh there’s nothing wrong with sci-fi in my humble opinion!

    I read The Hobbit while at school, but I didn’t read Lord of the Rings until many years later (although it *was* before the films)

    I suppose I should have given Harry Potter a mention in my blog – no other books have had me queueing in Tesco at midnight to get hold of the latest one the moment of release! Or maybe that’s something I should keep to myself… :)

  3. Pingback: i need to read
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