Writers must be readers—or so they say. I have met a lot of writers or would-be writers who were not voracious readers, but I would have to say that the most successful writers I know do read a lot. Most of them have always read a lot. If you haven’t been reading, I would suggest that it is one of the best new habits you can develop. An editor friend suggests that a good writer should read five hours for every one hour they write.
Most writers I know who don’t read or read much, complain that there simply isn’t enough time to read all the things they know they should be reading. They are right, there probably isn’t for most of us. On the other hand, we all likely have some time that can be “redeemed” for reading. The readers I know don’t watch much television, or spend much time surfing the World Wide Web for entertainment or sending their friends e-mail jokes. They tend to carry a book with them everywhere they go and read it in every spare moment. Reading is one of those things you must set aside time for—you simply won’t find the time you need. You also need to accept the fact that you will never have the time to do all the reading you would like. Just be thankful for all you can squeeze into your day. At the same time, never be guilty of giving up on reading because you “don’t have time.” If you are going to be a successful writer, you must be a consistent reader.
The question I am often asked is, “What should I be reading?” Generally it should be a wide range of things. Read books and periodicals on how to write. As a beginner I subscribed to The Writer and Writer’s Digest (that was before there were any Christian writers’ magazines), and read every issue cover to cover, even topics I wasn’t interested in. I was intent on filling my reservoir of knowledge about writing. That knowledge served me well as I expanded into areas I had never anticipated.
Read the periodicals you want to write for. I try to subscribe to a different one each year so I have a year’s worth of samples to study. Also read a lot of the kind of books you want to write. If it is Christian fiction, read the best Christian authors and the best secular authors in your chosen genre.
If you want to write for the secular market, read the best and most popular books available in the secular market. Unless you are keeping up with what is currently being written in the secular market, you can’t hope to compete in the marketplace.
In addition to regularly reading the Bible, for direction, inspiration and education, read it as literature. Read the classics.
If you want to write for children or young people, read at least 100 books for the age group you want to write for, before you ever start. Also read books on child development and who they are at different ages.
If you are moving into a new genre or area of writing, read as much as you can in the new area before starting to write.