When it comes to boosting your writing skills, there's no shortage of tips on the internet. Whether you're a freelance writer or author, one of the best ways to become a better writer is to do more reading.
It's true! Adopting this one simple habit can help you boose your writing skills.
Think of it as research. Spending more time reading various works:
- Helps you get to know different writing styles, voices, and genres
- Exposes you to writing that's better than your own (and gives you insight on how to improve)
- Creates connections with your own experiences and emotions
- Improves your communication skills
- Gives you a better, broader vocabulary
So, how do you make reading into a habit and skyrocket your writing skills? This article will tell you how! Scroll below for four tips to develop a reading habit that makes you a better writer.
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4 Ways to Use Reading to Become a Better Writer
Reading is such an underrated way to improve your writing skills, but in my option, it's the most fun!
Here's how to use reading to become a better, more well-rounded writer.
1. Read Often
Fun fact: most people's writing is a culmination of the reading they've done over their lifetime.
Their writing has been influenced by their favorite writers and authors — many times without them ever realizing it.
So by default, reading is a direct pathway to better writing.
“If you don’t have time to read, you don’t have the time (or the tools) to write. Simple as that.” — Stephen King
Best of all, using this habit to become a better writer is relatively easy and accessible.
- Borrow physical or eBooks from your local library
- Browse the shelves at your favorite independent bookstore
- Join Amazon Prime and get access to Prime Reading (free books for Prime members)
- Get a Kindle (or download the free app on your phone or tablet) and try a free 30-day trial of Kindle Unlimited
- Do a book swap with friends
You could also try my favorite way of finding great new books: Book of the Month.
Every month, you'll have the option to choose from 5 curated books in a range of genres. Select one as your Book of the Month and up to 2 addons for just $9.99/book.
In addition to heavily discounted, high-quality hardcover books, Book of the Month readers get access to early releases, which is awesome. You can also skip a month if none of the books appeal to you.
Here's a peek at some of my most recent BOTM reads:
A great way to stay motivated is to join book clubs and keep up with what you read on sites like GoodReads.
And if reading strains your eyes, consider getting some reading glasses like these ones from eyeglasses.com.
Another great option for glasses is Zenni Optical. I just purchased two pairs of glasses from Zenni for under $80 — with prescription lenses! I was even able to get a pair with blue light blocking lenses.
2. Read A Variety of Genres
As noted above, reading opens you up to new possibilities, styles, and cadences. To get a feel for the different types of writing out there, it can be helpful to explore new genres.
Science fiction and fantasy novels can open your eyes to brilliant descriptors, while poetry can introduce you to a new rhythm and cadence.
Romance can reveal new ways to depict emotions, while nonfiction can give you fresh ideas for inspirational writing.
Reading new genres can be especially useful if you feel like you’re stuck in a rut.
Break out of your routine and try something new — like reading a kind of writing you usually wouldn’t. Breaking out of the norm can have huge benefits.
Finding new perspectives and picking up unfamiliar genres can help you become a better writer. Plus, you may discover a love for a new genre!
“Read, read, read. Read everything — trash, classics, good and bad, and see how they do it. Just like a carpenter who works as an apprentice and studies the master. Read! You’ll absorb it. Then write. If it is good, you’ll find out. If it’s not, throw it out the window.” — William Faulkner
3. Create a Bank of Good Writing
For many writers, nothing inspires us to write more than reading someone else's words, whether it's a letter, journal entry, or a novel. Reading work from other writers can get you excited to tackle your next project.
As you read, consider building an inspiration index, or a collection of writing you love. This can be writing down words and phrases you admire in a notebook or on an index card or using Kindle's highlight feature in eBooks. Whatever works for you!
The next time you need some inspiration or motivation to start writing, revisit what you've collected. Use it to fuel your writing — but don't copy! Just explore the different styles, themes, and nuances of your favorite writing styles.
Taking note of writing you admire will help you develop skills to become a better writer and keep your inspiration flowing.
4. Create a Benchmark
If you don’t read anything other than your writing, how do you know if your writing is good? Reading other writers is a great way to find out where you can improve your skills.
That said, your writing shouldn't sound like a carbon copy of someone else's. You should come up with your own thoughts, ideas, and voice. The idea is to be able to recognize what qualifies as a well-written piece of work and use those criteria to examine your own writing.
Reading other people's writing also helps you discover new takes on old topics. By examining what's already been done, you can start to think outside the box and take a different approach. It can also save you from writing something similar to a piece that already exists.
Have Fun With It
Being well-read can make you a better writer, but it's important to have fun with it. If reading feels like a chore, don't force it.
Developing the habit can take some time. Start by setting aside 15-20 minutes every day to read for a few weeks. Instead of minutes, you could also make it a point to read a minimum of 10 pages per day. If you do that, you'll be on track to read at least one full book each month.
And remember, there's no rule that says you have to finish a book that you find boring or dislike!
If you need some inspiration, I've compiled some of my favorite fiction and nonfiction books below.
I hope you found this article on how reading can help you become a better writer helpful. You may also want to check out these articles on the best personal development and business books for freelancers and the best books for freelance writers.
Have any book suggestions? Share them in the comments!
Katie Jenison is a freelance writer offering copywriting, blogging, and ghostwriting services. She works closely with home builders, remodelers, interior designers, real estate and property management professionals to help them create content marketing strategies, improve their digital presence, generate leads, and engage with their target audience. Katie also helps freelance writers and creative entrepreneurs pursue their dreams of working from home by providing tips and advice, business strategies, and writing tips on her blog, The Quiet Type. Download her free workbook, A Freelancer’s Guide to Setting Rates, here.