Surprising Writing Advice You'll Love...
Give your manuscript the edge by learning to read like an author.
How many books do writers read a year?
Do writers read a lot? It’s a question I find myself asked from time to time by emerging authors. And the answer is a resounding yes. We read. A lot.
To give you an idea, as a published author, I read around thirty books annually. Some of my author friends read more, some (slightly) less.
Here’s the thing, while that might not seem like an overwhelming amount, what I’m not counting here (and another big part of my job) is all the other reading I do. In my day-to-day life as an author, reading takes up a fair amount of my time.
But It's not just books we're reading...
In addition to fiction, I also read:
- Research books and articles
- Manuscripts for author friends (to provide cover quotes, feedback etc)
- Unpublished writing for my mentees
- Craft books to recommend to my mentees
- Occasional competition entries for judging
- Industry news and updates
- Emails…so many emails. Do they count?
Reading is part of the job
Sometimes emerging authors are surprised–even a little overwhelmed–by the amount of reading we do in the industry. How do you fit in a reading habit when you’re still grappling with starting a writing career?
I get it. Life is crazy busy for all of us these days, and if you’re working another job or taking care of a family it can be challenging to fit anything else into your day. But the truth is, if you don’t make time to read, your writing will suffer.
It’s a pleasurable pastime you can’t skip out on if you want your manuscript to have the edge in the slush pile. Reading truly is part of the job for an author and we have to make time for it.
5 Reasons You Need A Reading Habit
Reading in the genre you are hoping to be published in helps you to understand the genre norms and conventions. Pay attention to things like point of view e.g. which is more common – first person or third person? How many POV characters are usual for this genre? What type of settings are popular? Are there popular tropes or themes that you are noticing? What about book length? Pacing?
Immersing yourself in great writing means you are absorbing techniques that work in published fiction. Take notice of things like characterisation, style, language and word choice, and of course, story. Other things to analyse include the author’s use of tense and the relationship between tense and POV.
Keeping up to date with current bestsellers helps you to understand what is working in the market right now. I’m not necessarily an advocate of “writing to market” because I believe we write best when our stories come from the heart, but it never hurts to have an understanding of what is selling well right now. This knowledge can help you when you are pitching your book to editors or agents.
Reading other people’s writing helps you to understand what works and what doesn’t for you. For example, if a book seems slow paced, you can analyse the text to work out why. Is it a deliberate choice by the author? Why or why doesn’t it work for you as a reader? How might you be aware of these issues in your own manuscript?
Need I say more? I’ve never met a writer whose love for the craft didn’t begin with someone else’s stories.
How do your reading habits stack up against a professional author?
Jump onto Social Media and let me know.