How to Read Your Way to Better Writing

This post, by Susan Bearman, originally appeared on Write It Sideways.

Writers write. But writers also read … at least we should.

My own to-be-read pile is officially as tall as my house, so I’m as guilty as the next writer of neglecting the reading part of my life, but this is a mistake.

I once heard that authors write only half of a novel; readers write the other half, and every time a book is read (or reread) it is rewritten.


I think this is brilliant and I wish I knew who said it first. It reminds us of the unique synergy between writer and reader (who usually don’t ever meet) in creating the world of the story that only starts on the page, but is transformed into something greater and completely new as the words are read.

But how can we use our reading to make our writing better?

1. Renew Your Love of Reading

Do you remember the first book you ever loved, perhaps one that was read to you over and over again as a child? Or the first book you read all by yourself? Or that love story you read as a teenager that made you fall in love with falling in love?

“All good books are alike in that they are truer than if they had really happened and after you are finished reading one you will feel that all that happened to you and afterwards it all belongs to you; the good and the bad, the ecstasy, the remorse and sorrow, the people and the places and how the weather was.” — Ernest Hemingway

I’m wiling to bet there isn’t a writer, dead or alive, who hasn’t been transformed by reading. But when was the last time you got lost in a wonderful story?

If you believe, as I do, that writers do half the work and readers do the other half, then the act of reading is an act of writing.

Maybe we need a new word to describe this phenomenon, but for right now, make a writerly commitment to enjoy reading on a regular basis. Make a date with the library or that pile of books on your nightstand, and rediscover the joy of reading.


Read the rest of the post, which includes three more specific points about how reading can improve your writing, on Write It Sideways.