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Submitted on
September 4, 2013
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Have you ever set down a book for good because you found something in it you don’t like? If you want to write, I suggest that bad habit end now.

Why, you ask? Because everything you read—and I mean everything–has positive value for you as a writer. Stephen King, and any author worth his or her salt, is a huge advocate of writers reading massive amounts.

Again you ask, why? How can everything be useful? There are a number of reasons and I’ll cover as many as I can.

Reading bad literature teaches you about yourself and shows you what to avoid—or at least how not to do something—in your own work. If you run across something that you don’t like, stop and ask yourself why you don’t like it. Is it just a personal preference? Was it out of place or poorly executed? Does it contradict something from earlier? As soon as you figure out the “why” of something’s badness, you learn a little about yourself and your craft.

You could learn a preference you didn’t realize you had. That preference could have subconsciously translated into a writing “rule” in your head and you’ll be able to break down that silly association. With that out of the way, you’ll be able to expand and diversify your writing and make it more appealing to more people. Also, you’ll be able to focus on that preference and sharpen it to a keen edge, maybe resulting in a signature element in your writing.

You can learn new tricks for writing. If you notice wording or development that’s clunky, awkward, or confusing, you’ll know not to use that approach in your own writing. You’ll also have a better idea of how to do it yourself. By learning how something shouldn’t be done, you’re able to focus more on how it should be done. If you can figure out where, and even how, the mistake happened, you’ll walk away with a greater understanding of the writing craft.

Ultimately, you’re learning from the mistakes of others and the others of the world are far more numerous, and generate far more mistakes than you. You get a greater sampling of mistakes by looking at those everyone else makes. Everything you recognize that’s wrong in what you’re reading nudges you a little closer to the “right” path, whatever that is for you.

Reading good literature is just as beneficial, though in different ways. If you find something that’s particularly striking, stop and ask yourself why. The author clearly did something right and if you can identify what, you can learn from it.

You can learn to write more effectively. If you notice you’re having a reaction to something you’re reading without any apparent cause, stop and look back over what you’ve read. The answer’s there somewhere, tucked cleverly away. It could be the order the information’s being presented. It could be the author’s choice of wording. It could be something you’re reading into the text or even a slow accumulation of details coming to a head. No matter what it is, if you find it and like it, try to emulate it!

You can learn what works for you. If you like something in what you’re reading, it’s clearly been done right. Figure out what it is and how the author did it and do it yourself! You’ll learn about yourself and where your interests lie. You might even get a better idea of where you want your skill to go!

You can open your mind. No one knows everything and no one can conceive of all the ideas that humanity has come up with. Let what you’re reading open your mind to new possibilities that you wouldn’t have thought of before. Maybe you never considered that two protagonists, best friends for life, could have irreconcilable differences that split them up permanently. Maybe you never considered the effects of low or zero gravity on the bones and muscles of space-faring characters. Maybe you never considered letting cultural taboos have a dramatic effect on a story. No matter what it is, good literature is going to have ideas you wouldn’t have thought of before. Embrace that. The more you know and the more you take into consideration, the greater your writing is going to be.

No matter how good or bad something is, read it. Analyze it. It’ll probably take some time to get used to this, but the results are worth it. Trust me. Some of the greatest things to happen to my writing occurred when I read The Old Man and the Sea and The Darkest Night.
I realized last night, with the help of my muse, that I have a serious flaw. I seek instant gratification. As such, my experience here has been diminished. This is something that needs to be fixed and I will work on it through writing guides. Judging by the amount of views and faves of my other guides, there is a healthy population of people here I can assist. And besides. I want to be an editor so I can help authors fulfill their potential. How is this not part of that goal?

On another note, I know I've surely missed things and I'd love to hear back from you guys about what those things are. What other benefits can come from reading good and bad literature that I haven't covered?
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Daily Deviation

Given 2014-05-18
One of the most essential tools to a writer is reading.  Reading as a Writer by Faraleigh explores the many pros to being a reader when you're trying to improve your writing. ( Featured by GrimFace242 )
Re-vive05 Featured By Owner 6 days ago  Hobbyist Filmographer
Thanks! I needed this a lot!
Faraleigh Featured By Owner 5 days ago  Student Writer
You're most welcome. :) Glad I could help!
Sekiei-sama Featured By Owner Oct 22, 2014  Student Digital Artist
This is definitely helpful and it makes sense. I read a lot online, but I think I could read more books to help better myself and my writing. Thank you! 
Faraleigh Featured By Owner Oct 22, 2014  Student Writer
While books certainly have their uses as models, everything you read has something to offer. :) And don't forget that there are plenty of books available online, particularly older classics that are now in public domain and free to access. One of these days I plan to read Frankenstein... :shakefist:
Sekiei-sama Featured By Owner Oct 23, 2014  Student Digital Artist
Thank you! :D I really do want to write well because I have a story in mind I am really excited about and I don't want to screw it up so badly I give up on it. I keep putting off starting it because I keep working the characters and the story. Though I realize I should take my time on these parts. Thank you for the tip about the online books. I will definitely look at some
Faraleigh Featured By Owner Oct 31, 2014  Student Writer
I started writing the book I've been working on for the last four years long before I had everything in place (I thought I did at the time, but boy was I wrong). While I wouldn't necessarily recommend this, it's been an amazing learning experience. I found the (boundless) holes in my preparation through this, as well as got to watch my writing abilities evolve tremendously over the process. By the time I got to the end, I all but had to start over. It's gratifying, if messy! If I could do it all again, I'm not sure I'd do anything differently. As for recommending a tactic to other writers, all I can say is find people who will read what you've written and give you feedback without softening their opinion (I've heard a lot of things I wasn't happy about, but I couldn't deny their truth). Personally, I'm not a spontaneous person. I have to plan or I'll fall flat on my face. Not everyone's like that, though. Other people do well just diving into a project with minimal prep work. So find out how you work best, and get someone with a solid opinion to look at the result for you. :D
Sekiei-sama Featured By Owner Oct 31, 2014  Student Digital Artist
Wow, that is some great advice. Thank you for sharing that with me! I think I need to prep some more before I start writing because if I don't i'll get frustrated and stop. I think that is the type of writer I am. Thank you for this!
Faraleigh Featured By Owner Nov 1, 2014  Student Writer
You're most welcome. :) Another tip I'll offer up is NaNoWriMo, which starts today. For several years now I've used it as a means to flesh out background information for my main projects. I just pick a subject, and write on it as much as I can. Sometimes I'll change gears in the middle of things when I've run out of material or gotten myself into a corner I can't easily fix (time is too much of the essence to try to muddle my way through fixing stuff... I'll save that for later!). Nothin' wrong with that. It's basically a giant brainstorming session. :D I've gotten some fantastic details to work into the grand scheme by doing this, but I don't ever plan on what I wrote seeing the light of day!
Sekiei-sama Featured By Owner Nov 1, 2014  Student Digital Artist
That is some great advice! Though it does seem a bit daunting, 50,000 words in a month, 1,666 words a day. I don't know if i'd be able to write that much, but I could definitely give it a try and write as much as I can. I actually have a couple story lines involving a group of characters, like a bunch of story arcs, so I have plenty of material to expand on. I want just talking to my friend about it as well. When I was telling my mum about it, she said it was amazing the ideas I was thinking of. However, mind you, it is more like fan fiction. The characters are mine, but they reside in the Fairy Tail universe, they don't even interact with the fairy tail characters, at least, not much. I wonder if i changed details and such, it would make for an interesting story, or even a video game! I want to get into television, animation, video games and such. Sorry, I realize I went on a bit of a tangent there. 
femaleartlover Featured By Owner May 23, 2014  Hobbyist Writer
I think this is very sage advice.
Joy x
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