Do You Have to Read to Write Well?


I feel two things when I finish a good book – awe and jealousy. There’s the first thought, ‘Wow! I love this,’ followed by, ‘Wow! Someone actually wrote this.’ Jealousy isn’t great, but if it’s mingled with wonderment and respect, it spurs on my momentum to not only create, but surround myself by people who do.

Why read?

Words are your livelihood if you want to be a writer. Novels, plays, articles, periodicals – they all have different styles writers can benefit from, and if you’re just starting off, you don’t know what kind of writer you are. Do you thrive in fantasy, thriller, dystopian or steam-punk? You find out through trial and error, and a great starting point is exploring the genre you’re interested in. I’m not saying that reading Terry Pratchett will make someone a good fantasy writer, but I believe that understanding the rules he created for his fictional universe puts you in a good place to think about the rules for yours. Comparison isn’t a bad thing and reading those who are acclaimed isn’t either. Just remember not to imitate the writing voice of others, read avidly, and let your style slowly develop by exploring a blank page and getting your nose stuck into a genre you resonate with.

Knowing the basics

This is going to seem obvious, but grammar is insanely important in the final product of your work. Not only grammar, but structure. Did you know all dialogue needs to be indented? Nobody told me that and I only realised by reading. But of course, all of these rules aren’t set in stone, either. You need to figure out if that internal monologue should be in italics, if you should change key words to bold for the effect (69 by Ryu Murikami does this very well), or if you need a certain punch so you CAPATALISE HALF OF A SENTENCE.  Language is your best friend, so study it! Not only does this give the reader confidence in your writing, it’s very important for getting published because magazines and agents have very specific guidelines and massive slush piles to get through, so if you make a grammar mistake on page one, it’s getting chucked.

Inspire yourself

Quite frankly, I don’t understand those who want to write, but never read. Half of the fun is creating a well of your own prose and drinking up the words that are similar to yours. It’s like being given a VIP pass to a secluded club and not once touching the bar. There’s a plethora of literature out there and we can do some pretty amazing things with just twenty-six letters, so writers, don’t just explore, get involved. Go to open-mic events, writing classes, give feedback to whoever asks for it – your writing will profit and so will your contacts for future publications. All of this being said, there are benefits to just scribbling away in your notepad for the sake of writing, because you just have to, and at the end of the day getting the words out is what’s important. Yet, if you wanted to leave it at that, you wouldn’t be reading this article.

Edward Little
Author: Edward Little

Edward Little is a writer and English teacher in Merseyside. He has an MA in Creative Writing and Publication, spends whatever time he can at open-mic events, and he has no clear plan for this future, except maybe writing the odd article.