Writers Must Read

Reasons writers must read

The requirement that writers read a lot is emphasized by publishing industry professionals everywhere.

The reasons are numerous. From learning how other writers capture and hold the reader’s attention, to recognizing poor writing.

Also, every book proposal must include a list of similar, successful works. This list helps convince the publisher that the writer’s book has the potential to be lucrative. After all, publishing is a business. It’s all about sales.

Writing has ruined my ability to read for pleasure. I scrutinize every word and compare it to all I’ve learned about great writing.

What makes a good book?

I’m currently forcing myself to read a mystery by a multi-published author. I want to see how he crafted the clues. But the writing is so poor, I might not waste my time to finish it. I’m not sure it’s even worth it to flip to the end to see who committed the crime. For example, the author writes what the character is thinking, and then writes, “she thought” or “he thought”.

I’m up to chapter seven, and I still don’t know who the protagonist is. All the author has TOLD so far is the last twenty years of the lives of three characters. I looked at the next few paragraphs and unfortunately, the author is telling the life history of a fourth character.

I don’t care about any of them. Not even the victim.

I need to root for a character who has a worthy goal. Who then encounters obstacles that escalate until the character decides to risk everything and fight the final battle. Even the antagonist needs to be interesting.

What are the positive lessons about this book?

— The author’s work is appealing to enough readers that he’s supporting himself with his writing. And several other well-known, multi-published authors give his books glowing endorsements.

— Every reader prefers certain subjects, genres, and style. Which reinforces the lesson that some people will like my writing and others won’t.

— Authors who have to write to pay the bills sometimes face unrealistic deadlines. Perhaps health or other issues prevent writing as well as every author hopes to write.

— I would seriously research the editor and publisher and the other books with which they have worked before I approached them. I’m not perfect, but I do want to be seen to produce quality and associate with others who do.

— It’s a reminder that I’m the type of reader who is drawn in by intrigue or danger that is shown, not told. There are so many ways every story can be shown in action and dialogue; and peppered with narrative and the surrounding world to heighten tension and emotion.

This is not the first book I’ve read where I decided not to read a particular author again. And it probably won’t be the last. But I must continue to read and learn — so I write the most compelling book I can produce.

What books do you really love and why? Thanks in advance for no negative comments about specific authors or books.

Writers Must Read – What books do you love and why? Click To Tweet

Joni Vance is an award-winning author of fiction, essay, and poetry. She loves mystery, history, and how God reveals Himself every day.


May God reveal the mystery of His love in your life story.

8 thoughts on “Writers Must Read

  1. I love all of Lauren Wolk’s books. She writes middle grade historical fiction, but much of what she puts in her story would go over the heads of middle graders and only the adults will get it. Her stories seem to start out nonchalantly—then build, and build, and build, until you are like “what just happened”. She paints deep pictures of her characters and you feel like you know them. She also develops the whys of the characters… as in… what made them turn out that way. When the protagonist is trying to understand why people are the way they are— she shows them (and the reader)… sometimes evil people just exist for no reason at all… they weren’t shaped by life experience… they just exist to be evil. But her books also give us hope as she shows that even though evil exists, there are still good people in the world, trying to do the right things.:)

  2. Great post Joni! The book world sure is made up of a hodgepodge of styles, genres, as well as rule-followers and rule breakers. I find that most of my leisure fiction reading reveals more authors break the rules than follow them. Even those that teach the rules break them in their books. I’m pretty much past being bothered by this. I try to, as you seem to be doing, learn about what either draws me in or turns me away. Always something to learn.

    • Thanks for reading and commenting, Tim. There’s something to learn about the craft from every book. I just read an elementary grade biography, and learned the flow at that grade level, as well as a bit about history. 🙂

  3. Virginia Tinsley

    Joni, you have helped me understand elements of good writing. Why do you think some writers who don’t write well find great commercial success?

    • Different reasons, I suppose. Some have a large “platform” – which means they reach thousands of people with different types of writing (blogs, articles, non-fiction, and connect on various social media outlets, etc.). Or perhaps their other books have been wildly successful and endorsed by some huge names. Marketing and word of mouth is a huge key to sales. My experience is that every style of writing has readers who love that style of reading. And people who love the long narratives or tons of detail about the weather are as numerous as readers who love the fast-paced, not much description of the storyworld kind of book. That’s good for authors – it means we all can find our place and find readers who will love us. Thanks for reading and sharing!

  4. Joni,
    We’ve encountered this much more in the age of self-publishing. Now, you and I both know terrific authors who self publish. But there’s always a handful who think writing is slapping words together without studying the craft or having the benefit of an editor or even self-editing. Your comments underscore the value of that all-important editor! They are the ones who make our work shine.
    I’ve had the honor of reading your work. It’s very, very good! Deserving of those awards!
    Good lessons here for all of us.
    Thank you!

    • Thanks for sharing, Debbie. And I appreciate the encouraging words. Your mystery, Grave Consequences, is great and can’t wait to read the next one!

Comments are closed.