Shop Mobile More Submit  Join Login
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?
Add a Comment:
 

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 inknalcohol )
:iconre-vive05:
Re-vive05 Featured By Owner Dec 13, 2014  Hobbyist Filmographer
Thanks! I needed this a lot!
Reply
:iconfaraleigh:
Faraleigh Featured By Owner Dec 13, 2014  Student Writer
You're most welcome. :) Glad I could help!
Reply
:iconsekiei-sama:
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! 
Reply
:iconfaraleigh:
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:
Reply
:iconsekiei-sama:
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
Reply
:iconfaraleigh:
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
Reply
:iconsekiei-sama:
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!
Reply
:iconfaraleigh:
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!
Reply
:iconsekiei-sama:
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. 
Reply
:iconfemaleartlover:
femaleartlover Featured By Owner May 23, 2014  Hobbyist Writer
I think this is very sage advice.
Thanks
Joy x
Reply
:iconfaraleigh:
Faraleigh Featured By Owner May 24, 2014  Student Writer
I hope it comes in handy!
Reply
:iconfemaleartlover:
femaleartlover Featured By Owner May 25, 2014  Hobbyist Writer
It has already. Yesterday I started and finished a collection of short stories by Ian Rankin, Jeffrey Deaver, Tess Gerritsen and Robert Crais. I have another small book of four stories to read tomorrow by David Baldacci, Michael Connelly, Cat Sparks and Bryce Courtney. Of these authors, there are only two I have not read before. Cat Sparks and Robert Crais are new to me. I am from Scotland originally so Ian Rankin is high on my list of favorites. Tonight I will write.
Thanks again
Joy x
Reply
:iconfaraleigh:
Faraleigh Featured By Owner May 27, 2014  Student Writer
Fantastic! :D I hope the writing went well.
Reply
:iconphoenixsoul9889:
PhoenixSoul9889 Featured By Owner May 18, 2014  Student General Artist
I'm glad that I read this and it helped me to look into the future of my writings. I remembered that my earliest pieces were okay, but I felt like there were a few things that could've been tweaked, or it could've been a little more detailed, or the wording was a little funky. I feel like I've improved since then, but I feel there's room for improvement, which isn't a bad thing at all, it shows that there's potential. 
Reply
:iconfaraleigh:
Faraleigh Featured By Owner May 24, 2014  Student Writer
I think that no artist, writers included, should ever be truly happy with what they're creating. If they are, then they're no longer improving in their craft. It's absolutely a good thing to see flaws in your writing and to strive to fix them!
Reply
:iconakira152:
Akira152 Featured By Owner May 18, 2014
Goodness you're brilliant. I love a good revelation and will seriously consider this in future reading/writing

if you'd be able or willing, I have many things here in DA and would like some constructive criticism.. Some of my writings are songs some are rants etc.

I'd really appreciate it :D
Reply
:iconfaraleigh:
Faraleigh Featured By Owner May 24, 2014  Student Writer
I hope it helps you. :)

As a warning, poetry and I don't get along, so I'll likely be skipping over songs. :lol: But I'll poke around a little and see what I find...
Reply
:iconakira152:
Akira152 Featured By Owner May 25, 2014
Thank you so much :)
Reply
:iconharmonicsonic:
HarmonicSonic Featured By Owner May 18, 2014  Hobbyist General Artist
There are some great points in this.  I would add that it can be beneficial for writers to not only read many different things, but to frequently re-read things.  I've noticed that when I re-read something, I notice things I didn't even think to look for the first time through.  For me, when I re-read something, I focus much more on the literary qualities of the piece (many of the subtle things that just fly under the radar the first time through).

I've tried to follow the rule of not putting down something I dislike.  The only time I can remember breaking this rule was with the Game of Thrones books, just because I found them to be so mind-numbingly terrible I just couldn't make myself continue with them.
Reply
:iconfaraleigh:
Faraleigh Featured By Owner May 24, 2014  Student Writer
Good call! Re-reading also gives you a gauge on how much you've grown, if you space out the reading and re-reading enough. I keep editing down my list of favorite books because I'm sure I've changed enough to not have the same perception of them as I once did (but haven't gotten around to re-reading them yet to make a final judgment).

:lol: I read the first book, and I loved the crap out of it. One of these days I'll get to the others, though... There are a few books I stopped reading, but I need to finish them. I just shudder at the thought of getting into The Source by James Michener again. 900 pages of insanely dry, boring prose that exists only to convey a rich history. I like the history, for sure, but the way in which it's transmitted makes me want to go on a rampage.
Reply
:iconharmonicsonic:
HarmonicSonic Featured By Owner May 25, 2014  Hobbyist General Artist
To each his own.  The really dry stuff can be tough, but sometimes it's worth it.  For example, the Sherlock Holmes stories by Arthur Conan Doyle are pretty dry in terms of style (in some ways they're written almost like a scientific treatise, which makes sense), but it's hard to put them down.  On the other hand, I have a hard time with most Tom Clancy novels (not necessarily because they're dry, but because the man can take five pages to describe a pencil, even if the description isn't really important to the story).
Reply
:iconfaraleigh:
Faraleigh Featured By Owner May 27, 2014  Student Writer
I agree completely. I read some really dry stuff during school, and I was glad I got through it. I've also read some really tough stuff and have been glad for that as well. When I had problems acquiring a textbook, I had to find Beowulf online, and could only really find the Middle English version. So I got to read half of that instead of the assigned translation. Though painful, it was totally worth it. I can't stand the translation now. :XD:
Reply
:iconbryosgirl:
bryosgirl Featured By Owner May 18, 2014  Hobbyist Writer
Grats on the DD! I remember reading this a while back, so it was pretty neat seeing it pop up again. :D
Reply
:iconfaraleigh:
Faraleigh Featured By Owner May 24, 2014  Student Writer
Thank you! :D I haven't been on dA much for a while, so I was surprised as hell when I logged on and saw a mass of messages!
Reply
:iconthegalleryofeve:
TheGalleryOfEve Featured By Owner May 18, 2014  Hobbyist Digital Artist
Congratulations on your well-deserved DD!!! :iconflyingheartsplz::iconlainloveplz::iconflyingheartsplz: :clap::clap::clap:
I’m very happy for you!!! :iconloveloveplz: :tighthug:
Reply
:iconfaraleigh:
Faraleigh Featured By Owner May 24, 2014  Student Writer
Thank you! :dance:
Reply
:icondehaxis95:
Dehaxis95 Featured By Owner May 18, 2014
Wow this was a great read and it made me think of this and that as a writer, I guess that means your mission/goal was met in a since.
Reply
:iconfaraleigh:
Faraleigh Featured By Owner May 24, 2014  Student Writer
If it makes you a better writer, then my mission has been accomplished for sure. :D
Reply
:icondehaxis95:
Dehaxis95 Featured By Owner May 24, 2014
Well then you have my thanks kind friend. XD
Reply
:iconc-a-harland:
C-A-Harland Featured By Owner May 18, 2014  Student Writer
This is a great article, and so true. I like how you've mentioned that one person can't possibly make all the mistakes, so they might as well let other people make them and just learn off them. 
The same can be said for critiquing others' works. The more you develop an eye for spotting what's wrong, the better you are at avoiding it in your own writing.
Reply
:iconfaraleigh:
Faraleigh Featured By Owner May 24, 2014  Student Writer
Absolutely! That's one of the reasons why I love editing so much. It's so useful, I feel like I'm cheating. :) Also, there's something to it, at least for me, that you learn best when teaching.
Reply
:iconra-meenan:
RA-Meenan Featured By Owner May 18, 2014  Hobbyist Digital Artist
I did this with the first Ranger's Apprentice books. It has DEFINITELY helped me realize how my own books should be written. XD Awesome advice. 
Reply
:iconfaraleigh:
Faraleigh Featured By Owner May 24, 2014  Student Writer
:aww: I'm tickled to hear this has proven useful to you. Keep it up!
Reply
:iconbornwiththesun:
BornWithTheSun Featured By Owner May 18, 2014  Hobbyist Writer
These are some great ideas that I hadn't considered before! :) It is really smart to learn from other's mistakes. We all need a negative example! :D

But I think that in some cases, (if the story is so overdone you can't learn anything from it), it's best just to skip reading. :)
Reply
:iconfaraleigh:
Faraleigh Featured By Owner May 24, 2014  Student Writer
Maybe I just haven't read enough to notice how awfully repetitive some things can be. Or maybe I'm just psychotic in my need to read everything no matter what because there's this niggling little voice in the back of my mind telling me I'll miss something if I skip over anything... :ninja:
Reply
:iconbornwiththesun:
BornWithTheSun Featured By Owner May 25, 2014  Hobbyist Writer
I'm the opposite. XD If I hit a grammar error, I'm out. Your article has proven to me that I need to break this habit. :D
Reply
:iconfaraleigh:
Faraleigh Featured By Owner May 27, 2014  Student Writer
I just tend to heckle grammar errors I encounter. :giggle:
Reply
:iconbornwiththesun:
BornWithTheSun Featured By Owner May 27, 2014  Hobbyist Writer
How do you heckle a grammar error? Confused I'm confused.
Reply
:iconfaraleigh:
Faraleigh Featured By Owner May 27, 2014  Student Writer
I guess "heckle" isn't the most appropriate term... If bad punctuation or grammar results in something saying something other than what the author clearly meant, I will make fun of it like no other.
Reply
:iconbornwiththesun:
BornWithTheSun Featured By Owner May 28, 2014  Hobbyist Writer
Oh yeah. :D I love grammar errors/typos that change the meaning of the sentence. They amuse me to no end. :)
Reply
:iconnyxintuneric:
NyxIntuneric Featured By Owner May 18, 2014
This is a rule I live by.  I've broken it all of once.
:3  Do keep up the awesomeness.
Reply
:iconfaraleigh:
Faraleigh Featured By Owner May 24, 2014  Student Writer
:salute: I will do my best!
Reply
Flagged as Spam
:iconfaraleigh:
Faraleigh Featured By Owner May 24, 2014  Student Writer
Thanks. :)
Reply
:iconfrozenonthesea:
Frozenonthesea Featured By Owner May 18, 2014  Hobbyist Writer
This is a great piece of advice, because I have found several books I absolutely loathe, but I have also found how to avoid making a book that repeats those mistakes time and time again. I think you wrote this well, and the idea you are trying to present to authors comes over loud and clear and concisely. Congratulations on the DD. And congratulations on writing such good advice that all writers should hear.
Reply
:iconfaraleigh:
Faraleigh Featured By Owner May 24, 2014  Student Writer
Thank you! I appreciate you taking the time to give my guide a technical critique. :) This is all for naught if I'm not doing it right.
Reply
:iconfrozenonthesea:
Frozenonthesea Featured By Owner May 26, 2014  Hobbyist Writer
You are most welcome.
Reply
:iconjadehawke:
JadeHawke Featured By Owner May 18, 2014
This is excellent advice; you are completely right about learning from role models, as well as mistakes. I would also like to add that reading creates a natural familiarity with the way words, sentences, and paragraphs flow together. Sometimes it's hard to identify what makes sentences 'flow', but with a lot of reading, it becomes natural instinct.
Reply
:iconfaraleigh:
Faraleigh Featured By Owner May 24, 2014  Student Writer
Good call. That's pretty much how I learned to write. I have a poor understanding ( :blush: ) of the technical side of English, like verbs and phrases and whatnot, but I know how it all works together rather well.

A friend of mine doesn't fully understand how paragraphs work. I tried teaching her, but the best I could do was just point at examples! :lol:
Reply
:iconpurplepixie96:
PurplePixie96 Featured By Owner May 18, 2014  Hobbyist General Artist
This was really deep. You made a lot of suggestions that I should keep in mind from now on. Thanks!
Reply
Add a Comment:
 
×

:iconfaraleigh: More from Faraleigh


Featured in Collections

Writing by karithevocaloid

tutorials - writing by alphabetsoup314

Literature by wolfofdesire


More from DeviantArt



Details

Submitted on
September 4, 2013
File Size
4.7 KB
Link
Thumb

Stats

Views
4,521
Favourites
326 (who?)
Comments
152
×