Are You a Reader?


It seems obvious. If you’re a writer, you have to  read!

I know most of you are readers. But I’m regularly surprised at how many writers confess to not reading widely in the genre they’re writing. Or any genre, for that matter.

Read in the genre you want to write

At one conference, I met with a lady who was writing a suspense novel. I asked who her favorite suspense authors were and she got that deer-in-the-headlights look, and hemmed and hawed. I felt bad for her because it was like she’d finally been found out! I gently suggested she take a break from writing and spend some time sitting on the front porch with a tall glass of iced tea and a stack of books. What could be wrong with that?

Of course, I wonder why anyone would even want to write a particular genre if they don’t read it. I mean, is there a fashion designer who doesn’t like clothes? Would you be a lawyer if you didn’t care about the law?

But more importantly, if you are not well-read, you will not be a good writer. If you haven’t read widely in a particular genre, you won’t have a strong understanding of that genre.

Quantity + Quality

I recommend you not only read as much as you can, but also pay attention to the quality of the books you read. You’ll naturally soak in the styles of writing that you’re reading. You’ll subconsciously learn about story structure and good dialogue and sentence construction and countless other aspects of writing. If you read nothing but bodice-ripper romances, don’t expect to sit down and write a literary masterpiece. (Note: I have nothing against bodice-ripper romances.) If you’re reading a steady diet of self-published books that haven’t been through the rigorous editorial scrutiny of a publisher, you might not be helping yourself.

Mix it up

It’s a good idea to read outside of your natural preferences sometimes, too. Give yourself some variety, open yourself up to different styles, genres, topics. You’ll learn something and maybe even find a new interest. That’s why I like book clubs, since they usually encourage us to read books others have suggested, rather than our own choices. Many reading groups, book-related podcasts, and websites like Goodreads have “Challenges” you can join, in which you’re trying to read all kinds of books that wouldn’t necessarily be your regular go-to. This keeps your reading fresh!

Don’t mistake this post to mean I want you to write like other writers, or consciously emulate them (although that’s not always a bad idea when you’re a new writer). I just want you to enjoy yourself while always becoming a stronger writer. And I want you to be an informed consumer of the product you are trying to sell.

So… read!

And for those of you who are already readers, what have you been reading lately?


Photo by Lenin Estrada on Unsplash


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Rachelle Gardner

Literary agent at Gardner Literary. Coffee & wine enthusiast (not at the same time) and dark chocolate connoisseur. I've worked in publishing since 1995 and I love talking about books!


  1. Jane Kelly Amerson Lopez on August 2, 2020 at 7:59 PM

    My dad wrote. My mother read. Lucky to have them both in my life!

  2. Cassy on July 28, 2020 at 10:44 PM

    Ever since I left university, I’ve neglected reading novels and now I have to read a lot of business articles. I do still love writing, I write fiction every weekend (since that’s the only time I got). I now only read online fiction. They’re not as good as books, but once in a while, their rawness in writing amazes me. I love how honest they are.

    Still, I guess I need to start reading again. Have to catch up with all the good ones.

  3. Lisa Jordan on July 22, 2020 at 7:27 AM

    Due to my schedule, my reading time is less than I would like, but I started reading while walking on my treadmill, which makes that task more enjoyable. I have several open books in my Kindle library. Currently, I’m reading Chase the Lion by Mark Batterson, Virgin River by Robyn Carr, The Way of the Brave by Susan May Warren, and Author Media Kit Essentials by June Stevens Westerfield. So an eclectic mix of nonfiction, secular fiction, Christian fiction, and writing resources.