Skills Writers Gain From Reading

We’ve all heard the old line of encouragement—reading makes you a better writer.

But how exactly does that work?

These are a few skills writers gain from reading from the viewpoint of someone honing their craft, not just as a typical reader.

You’ll Flex Your Critical Thinking Skills

Reading about made-up events and imaginary people might not seem like critical thinking, but you’ll use your brain in more ways than one. While you’re sifting through a book, you’re also:

  • Observing cause and effect correlation
  • Analyzing how actions and events affect characters or the plot
  • Recognizing things like bias (narrative or otherwise)
  • Problem-solving to get ahead of the problem (Who’s the murderer? The thief? The villain?)
  • Remember what you read before (simple, but takes practice!)

All of these skills are part of the drafting and writing process too. Grab a book or two—you’ll need these abilities to bring your stories to life.

You’ll Practice Your Grammar and Spelling

Whether you feel a secret thrill at finding a typo in a published novel or second-hand embarrassment for the people who made it happen, you automatically practice your grammar skills by spotting them.

You’re also reading words over and over again, which makes them easier to recall when you’re trying to spell them.

You’ll Discover New Writing Styles You Like or Dislike

You might also find that some writers vary their sentence structures in ways you like or dislike. The long, stretching sentences within a historical fantasy novel could draw you for the long haul. Maybe you prefer the short, conversational sentences that weave between longer ones in a comedic book.

Word choice is also a significant factor in enjoying a writer’s voice or style. Some writers will challenge you to keep a dictionary nearby at all times. Others will use modern slang or colloquialisms that might take you out of the story—or make it feel more real to you.

As you get used to the styles you prefer, your writing may naturally shadow those styles when you’re writing a story after putting the book down. That’s okay! Experimenting with style or tone isn’t plagiarism and doesn’t make you a bad writer. It’s another step in the journey of defining who you are as a creative wordsmith. That’s why I think this is one of the best skills writers gain from reading.

You’ll Learn New Ways to Describe Things

Imagine two writers describing a character walking across the street. One writer might focus on how the character feels, what they’re thinking, or what that moment in time means to them by writing in first-person POV. The other could write about the weather, the city, the cars passing by, or what another person thinks of the protagonist through a third-person omniscient POV.

It’s always good to challenge how you might write a scene by reading how others do it. You’ll return to your work or start a story with a new perspective on standby.

You’ll Analyze the Plot

When you fall in love with a novel, it’s natural to think about the plot even after you finish the book. You’re likely reminiscing about the great plot points like two future best friends meeting at a pizza shop after stepping forward for the same order—they shared first and last names! Maybe you loved how each minor conflict built into a war between nations or how a character slowly lost their mind and sought revenge.

You’ll know what works and what doesn’t work about the plot structure based on how a novel grips you or not. Your brain will take note of the many things you feel and store them for instinct later. While you’re plotting that traditional mountain-shaped plot line, your creative side will find inspiration to drop conflict or positive moments that enrich your story.

You’ll Fall in Love With the Characters

We’ve all written a good character and we’ve all written a bad one. Do you remember the first time you read a morally gray character? It likely blew your mind and made you want to write one too.

Falling in love with characters is like practice for writers. You won’t want to make the exact same character in all of your future stories (unless you only want to write fan fiction, and if that’s the case—enjoy every moment of it!), so you’ll use them as inspiration just like people in real life.

You’ll Improve Your Concentration

Not to sound like a cliche, but social media companies literally create their apps to monetize the brain’s ability to crave stimulation. Scrolling and swiping have likely had an effect on how long you can concentrate. I know it has for mine!

Even if you’re not on social media, things like the pressure to multitask and juggling responsibilities can wear on your focus too. If you miss those moments in your childhood or teenage years when you would spend an entire afternoon or weekend with a book, you don’t have to be sad for long.

Reading any length of book can improve your concentration. Set a timer and read for five minutes. Next time, read for six. Slowly expand your time for reading (while there aren’t other distractions around, like notifications on your Kindle or your phone screen lighting up nearby).

As you read in longer stretches, you’ll write in longer stretches too. Your brain will feel more at rest with the one quiet activity you choose to do. Did I mention that makes editing way easier too?

Enjoy Skills Gained From Reading

The next time you feel guilty for reading something instead of writing, remember that you’re also sharpening these skills! Reading is an invaluable way to get better at writing. All you have to do is pick up a book to develop these skills writers gain from reading.

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