Do you think that it is necessary for a good writer to read a lot?

megalomaniac 08/19/2017. 18 answers
Arts & Humanities Books & Authors

18 Answers


Steven J Pemberton 07/29/2017.

Let me put it this way - it's hard to see how you could be a good writer if you didn't read a lot. My experience is that everything you read influences you to a greater or lesser extent, but the more you read, the less the influence of any one piece is.

EDIT: I'm not sure Y!A is a good place to play devil's advocate, given the number of genuinely stupid and lazy questions we see here, but anyway... My knowledge of music theory is such that if you played something I'd composed to a room full of musicians and critics, I'd think I was doing well if one of them didn't burst out laughing.

If I was trying to communicate an emotion through music, I might succeed despite not knowing much theory and despite not listening to much music that was written outside 1980 to 1992. (Like everyone else over 30, I had the immense good fortune that my teenage years, plus or minus a bit, coincided with the best music ever composed.) But I'd be much more likely to merely *think* I'd succeeded. I wouldn't find out until the room of musicians and critics fell about laughing that the emotion was mostly in my head, not the music. I wouldn't know why I'd failed, and I wouldn't know how to change the music to put the emotion into it.


CECIL W 08/05/2017.

Yes indeed....and to have great observational and emotional skills....


Abbott 08/05/2017.

If you write novels you should have a general acquaintance with the novel from the classics to popular fiction today. In your own genre you should be an expert.


Thomas 07/29/2017.

Let me re-phrase your question a bit. Can you be a good writer without reading a lot? And I would say the answer to that is 'no'. Good writers read a lot. They make it their whole life. That is why they are good writers. It is like you are asking, "Can I be good at something without really making much of an effort?" and again the answer is 'no'. Is it possible? Well, anything is possible. But only some things are likely.

If you do not read a lot, that is an indication that you do not like to read. You say, 'Oh, I understand you have to read some'. You question is actually very poorly written. I have the feeling you are not a fan of Shakespeare or Steinbeck or Hemingway or Fitzgerald or any writers that someone might admire for their eloquence and style. The answer to your question is an emphatic 'no'. It is not just about reading but about being interested in language and how other writers writer, wanting to be better. That last 1% is the hardest and it seems you are not even close to being mediocre or average.


Voelven 07/29/2017.

I hear what you're saying about the music. I'm also an artist and you could say that the same applies there. I don't necessarily agree, though. Yes, you might be able to create unique music and unique art by trying to avoid any outside influence (which of course you cannot, unless you've lived in a vacuum all your life), but I believe these people are the exception to the rule - and I have a feeling that they'd still make unique music and unique art (maybe even better than what they're doing now) if they'd studied and tried out all the different techniques/sounds/art. It would give them a bigger 'toolbox' to draw from.

There's of course always the danger of being influenced by what you learn, but aren't we then talking about the ability to hold onto a unique artistic vision? To take something you've learned and make it your own.

As for the reading. I'll admit that I do not read as much as I used to, but I'm more selective about what I read. At the moment I'm slogging through an old, critically acclaimed novel with raving online reviews. I can't say I love it, but there are a few diamonds in the mud, which I can learn from because they are shining examples of what I'm struggling to achieve. That is... I see a weakness in my own writing and then read novels that are strong in that area to study them in order to better create the vision already in my mind.

To me these *research novels' - reading new authors or novels I ordinarily wouldn't have read are the most important for my writing now. The other books where the authors' writing style is as comfy and familiar as a pair of old slippers aren't teaching me anything I don't know already.

So I'd say that once you've read enough novels to have a good feel for the basics, then it also becomes a matter of what you read, but until you reach that stage then yes, reading a lot of novels is an advantage.

And of course, the more widely you read, the more you'll have to draw from. The same with just studying the craft. The more you know the better you get at getting away with breaking the rules. ;)


pianoman 07/29/2017.

If one wants to be effective as a writer, an actor, a musician, an artist, etc., one should learn from as many experienced persons in their area of interest as possible and become as knowledgeable as possible by reading on a variety of subjects.


denise 07/29/2017.

It would help you to see writing styles and genres, so yes.


Elaine M 07/29/2017.

I think they benefit from seeing how other authors craft their stories, yes.


Trilobiteme 08/05/2017.

No but it helps


Andrew 07/29/2017.

Serious readers can recognise that an author doesn't have a strong (or even an adequate) foundation in reading before they make it more than three paragraphs into that person's work. Your question is one that is asked constantly, and there is only one answer: Yes, serious readers will tell you that to write well, one must have a decent amount of well-written books under his or her belt when it comes to what the person has read; however, people who read garbage will read whatever garbage they choose to read. Whether a writer who produces garbage bothers to read or not isn't going to matter, and people who read garbage prefer not to be bothered with literary devices such as themes, metaphors, imagery, allegory, etc., and they couldn't care less about style or craftsmanship. I'm always left to wonder whether the real question behind these posts might actually be: "I don't read a lot and I don't read what's worth reading. Will that inhibit me from becoming successful with my own writing?"


They Pelted Us With Rocks And Garbage 07/29/2017.

Yes

You have to be able to steal from more than one source.


bluebellbkk 07/29/2017.

It is POSSIBLE for someone to write well who doesn't also read a lot.

But it is so terribly, incredibly rare.

For most people, reading widely is an essential part of writing.

Same with music. You have to learn the techniques of actually playing the instrument before you can start to improvise and play your own 'unique' music.


Billy 07/29/2017.

Yes. By the way, you shouldn't say that your question is "in order to generate discussion." That can get your question deleted because it makes your question "chat." Yahoo Answers is not a discussion board, and "chat" is a violation. Read the user guidelines.


MsBittner 07/29/2017.

Absolutely necessary. Any writer who doesn't is pretty much doomed to fail.


Crow 07/29/2017.

Absolutely 100% yes. \

ETA: you're in violation, I've reported you, and you're a jerk. Don't waste our time when we're trying to volunteer and help young writers. Also? I hope you die painfully, and soon.


Gigapie 07/29/2017.

Yes. What a stupid question.


Zoozu 07/29/2017.

Not just "a lot" but widely. That means read many different kinds of writing. both nonfiction and fiction. That is so you can become familiar with different styles of writing and learn to tell the difference between good writing and bad writing.


Tina 07/29/2017.

Yes, it is. For two reasons - it helps their style and it stops them thinking that they have a unique plot when it's the story of a boy who discovers his wizardly powers and goes to boarding school.

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