Reading often and with an analytical eye will help you do the following:
Understand the three-act structure of storytelling
This one's fairly easy and something that does not necessarily have to be taught to you if you read fiction regularly. The more you read the more you absorb the three-act structure of storytelling. I wouldn't be surprised to know a four year old could tell an adequate story in less than five sentences just by having someone read him a bedtime story every night.
The dinosaur lost his blanket. He travels the land for days in search of the blanket and spots it near the top of a volcano. He climbs up the mountainside, fighting lava monsters until he finally makes it to the blanket and takes it back. He safely returns to his mommy and daddy, and lives happily ever after.
As dull as that story is, it's still a complete story that contains the three act structure with Setup, Confrontation and Resolution. We understand this structure early and easily in stories just by reading and reading often.
Helps to study the market
Compare your books to other books by reading similar books in your genre with similar themes. It allows you to see how popular or appealing that genre and theme is, how your story compares to it in terms of uniqueness, and helps you discover overdone plots and overused characters and other clichés.
With that information you can write a book that stands out from the competition and produces buzz. You can also see the commonalities of your genre and understand why readers gravitate (or not) to those types of books so you can better provide reader satisfaction.
Helps to find your voice
When reading stories with similar themes as your own you can analyze how other authors tell their stories and why you think their voice worked or didn't work for that book. Is it too dark? Fast paced with choppy sentences? Does it lack tone or emotion?
Finding out how the narrative voice fits with the book or not will help you see which style is best for your own story.
Helps to broaden your vocabulary and improve your grammar
We read many words while reading some of our favorite books and some are words we're not familiar with. We learn and memorize those words and add them to our vocabulary. With every story we read our vocabulary grows. The more words you know, the easier it is to write and be more descriptive.
We can be our own teachers at times and improve our grammar just by reading regularly. Seeing a word spelled a certain way, or with an apostrophe here or there becomes second nature to mimic that in our own writing.
Plus, more people should easily understand the difference between the words then and than if they read those words in a few sentences often. (A tiny peeve of mine).
Bad excuses NOT to read as a writer
- Afraid of stealing ideas from another book or author.
This is a poor excuse, in my opinion. True, there are few original ideas left (if any) but there are limitless ways of telling a story. You have a unique voice, style and creativity that it's nearly impossible for two people with the same idea to tell the exact same story.
- It takes away writing time.
So continue to write but remember to read and read often for entertainment, inspiration or whatever the reason, but especially if you want to improve as a writer.Do you agree with my points? Do you have something to add that I may have missed?