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Reading well is a mandatory prerequisite for writing well

sshively@uccs.edu

Published: Monday, March 18, 2013

Updated: Monday, March 18, 2013 02:03

     If you can’t find the time to read the work of a published writer, why would you ever expect someone else to read your work?

     Aspiring writers have to be reading published work from the genre that most interests them. If nothing else, it provides an example of the kinds of stories, poetry, memoirs or essays that have been published in the past and the standard for published material.

     The fact that those writings have been published, while yours have not, either means they are better than what you have written or that those other authors have actually put in the work to get theirs published.

     If you would like to write fiction, you don’t necessarily have to start reading all the old classic literature.

     If the classics interest you, great. If not, read Stephen King, Meg Cabot, Suzanne Collins, J.K. Rowling or anyone else who you happen to like. The idea is just to read published authors.

     Reading and writing are interconnected. You don’t get to claim that your writing is better than theirs, or even on the same level, unless you have actually read their work.

     You also have no right to say your work is even good if you have not read the published work of another in your genre of choice.

     And you should be reading others in your genre of choice. If you plan to write lengthy fantasy novels, reading manga is not likely to help you. These two genres have very distinct plot structures that do not mix well.

    Awful books get published all the time, and that is when a writer must consider what that book or series has that his or hers does not.

     I learned to read when I was 4 years old, and I have loved reading ever since. I learned spelling, vocabulary and grammar rules because I was reading all the time. When I came to these concepts in school, they were a review for me.

     When I meet college students who blame their high school for not teaching them grammar, I don’t accept that as an excuse. My high school never taught me grammar either; I learned it by avidly reading good books.

     Reading published work can teach spelling, vocabulary and grammar, but it also teaches plot structure, effective dialogue and character development.

     You have to learn from published writers first – and apply those lessons – before you can ask others to read any of your work.

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