It seems to me that there’s been an increase lately in writers who don’t have time to read. I’m not talking about the working, published authors who temporarily have to put aside their fiction stack in order to preserve their voice or just make a deadline. I’m not even talking about the writer with the full-time job who has to limit her reading to vacations and the occasional weekend. I’m talking about the writer who doesn’t believe he or she needs to be a reader to be a good writer.
My reason for saying this is probably completely different than you might expect. A person can certainly learn to be a good writer by studying books and refining their own work. They might even get published. But I would be shocked if they found any long term success. Not because of a lack of talent, but because you can’t sell work to an audience you don’t understand.
Since I clearly like food, let me use an analogy: A writer who doesn’t read is like a chef who doesn’t eat.
[bctt tweet=”A writer who doesn’t read is like a chef who doesn’t eat. #2minwritingtip #amwriting”]
Readers, just like writers, are shaped by their tastes, and their tastes in books are as ever-changing as their tastes in fashion. In order to understand your readers’ expectations, you have to read what they read. You must read classics and New York Times bestsellers; the also-boughts beneath books you’ve written and books you wish you’d written. And gradually, without even realizing it, you begin to understand your readers’ worlds a bit better. You see the repeated elements that obviously resonate with them. You also see the tropes that are used–and overused–and will no longer seem fresh to them.
That’s not to say that the purpose of reading is to copy popular books or try to mold your writing into a particular style. Rather that, instead of writing from a bubble, an ivory tower, or <insert your favorite distance metaphor here>, you are writing to them as another reader who inhabits the same space as they do and has the same desire for a good story. And in that commonality with your reader is where you’ll find the ability to make a true connection.