‘Good writers have one thing in common,’ said my English teacher at school. ‘They’re all big readers.’
That gem of advice make an impact on me then and has followed me ever since. Not that I needed much encouragement to read – I’ve always been a bookworm – but it was inspiring to know that my hobby wasn’t only enjoyable in its own right, but also helping me to express myself in writing.
How about you? Is there a stack of books on your desk or bedside table, or are you someone who prefers doing things to reading about them? The two are not mutually exclusive, of course, but if you’re planning to write a book of your own it’s worth immersing yourself in other people’s first.
It inspires you
If you’ve ever read an amazing non fiction book and come away with two or three actionable ideas from it, you’ll know what I mean. The same goes for when a book helps you to see the world in a different way. I’ll never forget reading the opening chapters of Lynne Twist’s The Soul of Money or Kate Fox’s Watching the English and realising that my mind had been changed forever.
Reading novels can produce the same effect. A beautiful turn of phrase or a shocking plot twist can spark ideas for your own book in an indirect way, even if you’re not planning to write fiction. It’s the action of joining the dots and being prompted to think outside of your habitual thought patterns that’s so inpsirational.
You learn what else is out there
If you’re planning to publish a book about your expertise or life experiences, you need to know your competition. And there’s no better way to educate yourself on that than to read what else is out there on your chosen topic.
Your competitors’ books will teach you what’s already covered, where the gaps are, and how you can fill them. Is what’s already on the market out of date? Is it aimed at a different audience than yours? Do you have specific experiences that are different to the competition? Will yours be better or more readable in some way?
I’m calling these books the competition, but in some ways they’re not. They prove that there’s a market for your own book; in fact, if there’s nothing on the subject already, it should be a cause for concern. The presence of other books on the same topic as yours show that there are enough readers who are interested to learn more. In that sense, competitor books provide the stage for your book to shine on.
It teaches you what doesn’t work (and what does)
Have you ever closed a book and thought, ‘Well, I could do better than that’? If so, great. You’re now fired up to write your own bestseller instead.
But do you know why the book didn’t work? What was it about it that made it fall flat? Was it that you didn’t understand what was going on, or the logic of the author’s argument? Was it because the prose was boring and lifeless? Try to pinpoint the reasons.
Alternatively, have you ever devoured a book to the end and been gripped by every word? If so, why? Was it the way the information was presented? The examples and stories? The dialogue? The argument? When you know what you love in a book, you’re one step closer to emulating it in your own.
This is one of the most valuable reasons to read lots and lots of books – you learn what works and what doesn’t. You learn to become a critical reader, and can then apply what you’ve discovered to the writing of your own book. The good news is that some of this happens automatically without you even trying. But there’s also much to be gained by making it a conscious process of learning, because that’s how you take yourself from amateur writer to expert author.
If this sounds like fun, that’s great. But if it feels like hard work, you’re in luck because there are ghostwriters here who can help. They read and write for a living, so you don’t have to.
Ginny Carter is a bestselling ghostwriter of over 20 books, a book coach, and an award-winning author in her own right.