What Do You Read and How Do You Use It?

What have you been reading?  And how often do you read?

Although we sometimes wish it were possible, writers can’t just close themselves off from the world and only write.  We need to fuel the old brain cells in order to continue creating our own stories.  One way to do that is to read.  To read often.  And to read widely.

I am a reading addict.  To the extent that I often have to force myself to stop reading so I can get back to my writing, or other things I need to do around the house.  And I read a lot of different genres.  Because I find something of interest in each of them.


If I had a dollar for every word I’ve read I’d be the world’s first multi-gazillionaire.  And if I had a dollar for every word I’ve written, I’d be a very comfortable multi-millionaire.


It’s possible science fiction and fantasy may be out of my reach as a writer, but I’ve spent many pleasurable hours with Mary Rosenblum, David Weber, Lester Dent, and Jim Butcher.

I probably don’t have the patience for the exacting research required to write a historical novel to compare with Sabrina Jeffries or Mary Balogh.  But I find myself enthralled by the descriptions of places and people of history, wrapped up in the gritty details of society’s customs and the class system, the entertainment and clothing of nineteenth century England.  I’m in awe of authors who pull me so deep into the era that I am surprised when I look up from the book and see my modern world.

I’ve been told a couple of my story endings have veered into Hitchcock territory.  Not because I sat down and decided to emulate the master film director.  But don’t you suppose some measure of darkness and mystery rubbed off on me from the Dean Koontz, Allison Brennan, Maggie Shayne, Lee Child, and Preston and Child novels I cherish?

Every word I read, every phrase I absorb, teaches me something I can put to use in my own writing.  What I learn from the work of other writers encourages me to make my story structure stronger and tighter. Their words teach me how to polish my sentences into sharp tools of exposition.  Analyzing their processes leads me to efficient use of words.

When I observe the work of other writers and compare my work to theirs, I always feel mine falls short.  So I keep reading, because every book I read, motivates me to reach those higher skill levels in my own writing, to write even more.  To accomplish something worthwhile with my gifts.  Is there any way that can be a bad result of reading others’ work?

Let’s go back to my original question.  What have you been reading?  And how often do you read?  Don’t be afraid that you will begin to write like James Michener because you read his book while you’re working on your own manuscript.  That’s not going to happen if you’ve developed your own voice.  (And that’s the subject for another post, isn’t it?)

Share with us something you’ve learned while reading other authors.  Tell us how it changed your writing, or how you implemented it for your own growth.