Reply To: Controversial Opinion: “Reading makes your writing better” is bad advice

Forums Fiction General Writing Discussions Controversial Opinion: “Reading makes your writing better” is bad advice Reply To: Controversial Opinion: “Reading makes your writing better” is bad advice

Noah Cochran



You two really just did that didn’t you. xD I wonder what put this topic on your mind…

Well, I’m always game for a good argument, let’s do this. 🙂

First off, just to clear a notion that you might think I hold, I do not ever recommend reading bad writing or badly written books as part of one’s research, I find it nearly useless, as do many other writers. Now, before I get into the main topic, let me agree with you two on something: You are correct about, as you put it, “doing your research to a point, but eventually one should just start writing and leave research behind”. This is completely true, and I want to tack on that doing one’s research on plot, characters, prose, story arc, etc…first is invaluable and should never be skipped.

Alrighty, let’s get to the meat of the problem. The first thing I need to say, is that I believe our thoughts on what “reading to get better at writing” means may differ. So just in case, let me explain exactly what I mean by that. What I do not mean is what you two I referring to as “book analysis”, i.e, examining a book’s writing and prose closely to improve one’s own. What I do mean, is pure and simple. Read, read, read. No extra attention to the prose or anything, just read. Sure, maybe cut out the normal browse reading that sometimes happens and read a little slower, but otherwise, just read.

Before I comment on your arguments Shannon (or LRC, whoever wrote this heresy 😉 ), let me state what I believe the benefits are of reading a lot as a writer. It is simple, the more good  prose and stories you read, the more they are in your mind, making it easier to craft your own stories and eloquent prose. Many authors (who take my side of this argument) even recommend reading poetry to instill the use of literary devices and flowing language into one’s mind. That’s on my list to do. 🙂 Another benefit is giving you story ideas, and even more importantly, showing you what’s already been done or is overused (I believe you did mention that in talking about being aware of tropes).  The concept boils down to what people tell newbies in all arenas of life, and that is to expose yourself, and continually expose yourself to the arena you are going into. If you want to be a game developer, play a lot of games. If you want to become a musician, listen to a lot of music (I’ll get to your example in a minute Shannon). If you want to become an artist, look at many artistic sights and painting. I think you get my point.

Okay, so now that my reasons for why reading a lot is beneficial are clear, I’ll get to your arguments, starting with Shannon’s music example. I just want to say first, that this was a sound point, and I liked it. You know what’s coming. But. xD Yeah, there is a but, and that is firstly that I think that the example applies more to music than anything else, since chords and intervals are known to get stuck in people’s heads. Stories and arcs typically do not, at least not in the way music does. There are two main ways that reading other people writing while writing your own could possibly interfered (I’m running with your argument for a moment here): Prose and Plot/Arcs. Learning and copying prose techniques is a fantastic thing to do, and the main reason I think reading copious amounts of books is a wise thing to do. This is where the musical analogy isn’t quite as strong, because prose are nothing like chord and cadence combos, prose are meant to be similar, because good prose are good prose and bad one’s are not. As for story, I can see your point here, but I’ll I can say against it, is it hasn’t happened to me. You might be calling me out right now and saying that I’ve only been writing for three months, but after writing nearly 90k words in the last 5-6 weeks and reading numerous fictional works at the same time, I can say reading fiction does not affect my story at all, especially since I’m an outliner. I could see a pantser possibly having this problem, but an outliner should not.

Time to move on. I want to focus in on the following sentence

There won’t be a new book that suddenly changes the rules to the craft.

That sentence, and the many others talking about reading as researching, is where we differ. I do not read because I think I’ll learn something new, nor do I do it as any sort of research. As I said, I do it to have the flow and rhythm of good prose and good stories constantly going through my head, and to possibly extended my ideas and lexicon. That sentence is something you repeat quite frequently in various ways, I think this is the bare bones of your view, and that is not the way I look at it or mean when I recommend reading a lot.

I personally even try to avoid reading for fun when I know I am going to draft that day; I have noticed that too much intake of other people’s fiction can cloud the mind and mess up the output of your own creativity (LRC)

I have not had this experience whatsoever, but if that actually happens, that is a valid reason for not wanting to read. 🙂

I’m looking forward to a rebuttal. 🙂


Hey Rose, get in here and help me out, or gang up on me if you agree with these ladies’ views. xD



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