If you have ever considered being a writer, then the best advice anyone can give you is to do lots of reading. That doesn’t just mean research on your favoured topics.
It means reading. Reading for the simple joy of it. Fiction. Non-fiction. Graphic novels. Comic books. Magazines. The whole works. Reading is directly proportionate to better writing.
There are no right and wrong books to read, as long as you’re working your way through something. By reading, in particular if you enjoy reading across a wide number of genres and formats, you’re gaining exposure to many different approaches to the written word. This is what has drawn me into the science fiction and horror writing sphere. I had and continue to have a keen interest in both genres in a variety of mediums. It stands to reason therefore that the main focus of my writing is in these two genres, sometimes smashing them together like a poor man’s version of the Large Hadron Collider.
But I don’t limit myself to just those genres, and to make the most out of your planned writing career neither should you. Branch off the main path now and again. Do something different, find a genre or story that is outside of your normal comfort zone. If you’re like me and enjoy sci-fi and horror, why not write a crime thriller? Or a western? Or, you know, anything else at all? The only limitation is your imagination. Which is no limitation at all.
And the best part? All of this will make you a better writer. Whether you are influenced by a particular author or a particular style as I am, you will learn through some strange kind of osmosis about how the written word works. More importantly, you will come to appreciate what doesn’t work. Now and again you’ll find a novel that is so appallingly written and clumsily plotted that you question how they managed to sell as many books as they have. I’m looking at you, Fifty Shades of Grey – said the man who hasn’t read anything more than an occasional badly written sentence.
But let’s not focus on any negatives like that train wreck of a novel. Reading should be a positive experience, and for me it will forever remain that way. Sure, I watch a lot of films but I try and balance my enjoyment of cinema and television drama with equal amounts of time reading. It might not necessarily always be a novel. I plough through six magazine and comic subscriptions every month. It’s a rare thing indeed if I go more than a day without reading for the pleasure of it.
Reading lots of books is a very good thing, whether you wish to be a writer or otherwise. Don’t let anybody tell you otherwise.
As for me? I’m foolish. I start a book and then without even realising it I’ve started another four somewhere along the way. Needless to say I don’t finish books as often as I would like because of this. Still, I do get through somewhere between 35-55 books and graphic novels in a year, so I’m quite happy with that tally in the grand scheme of things. You might be the same, as focused and equally scatterbrained as I am. You may only read one book at a time. Again, this is perfectly fine.
But it all comes down again to that one fact. If you want to write, you have to read. It’s as simple as that.