P. N. Elrod (p_n_elrod) wrote,
P. N. Elrod

Do you think it is possible to write a good book if you never read?

The title is a question posed by a young would-be writer on a message board.  She added that she doesn't have much of a vocabulary because she doesn't read, though she did finish a popular book by a writer whose derivative crap is selling well. She only reads when she has to. Can she still write? 

My reply:


Unless you get past the not-reading thing, you're never going to make it as a writer.

I doubt anyone else here will be honest with you about that, either.

You're looking for an excuse to get out of reading, yet be a writer, but that's like a composer who refuses to listen to music, or an artist who doesn't go to museums, or an actor who doesn't watch movies and plays.

I'm a professional writer and editor and will let you know you will never get a thumbs up from me or anyone else in the publishing industry unless you suck it up and start going through books like a threshing machine. I can tell who's got something worth reading and who's just phoning in a recycled version of a book they skimmed back in the day.

You are at the perfect age to start, too.

For someone who wants to write, yet not read books, it's completely ridiculous to avoid reading, so put on your game face and make the library your new second home. You will never get the vocabulary you need unless you put the words into your brain. Your brain is a sponge and starved for new stuff. Feed it.

EVERY writer I know is addicted to reading. You just never found the right books that made you want to finish them.

The big fat popular book you did finish is one of millions out there, and you'll figure out later that the writer of that book is not that good. I think the "author" is pretty lousy, but you love that book. Why is that? Because you don't know what's OUT there!

You're settling for crappy stale bread and think it's great because you've never sampled anything better. Just for the asking you can have a gourmet meal of reading. It's all at the library. For free.

You must think you won't be a good writer, so you can blame future failures now with the "I don't read" excuse.

Well, (bleep) that!


Or begin considering a career in the housekeeping industry.

No, I take that back. I was at a writing conference and got a box of free books that I could not take home on the plane. The housekeeping lady who made up my room was thrilled to get them. She adored reading and so did her kids. I helped her load 20 books into her cart next to the clean towels. She'd share with her family because there was something for everyone.

So how are you going to write anything better than recycled crap unless you read?

You won't.

Get cracking.


She later posted a thank you and said she'd not thought of things from that direction before. She promised to go to the library.

I hope it works out for her.

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And I think I know what the derivative crap is.
Maybe not! I've a dozen names on that list! ;0)

Just so you know, Rowling isn't one of them. I like the Potter books. Nice big vocabulary in those!

But I need to get digitals of them. It's too tiring trying to read a book so heavy you can crack walnuts with it.
I have heard rumors that they may actually have the Potter books available in e-format in the next year. Which would be nice.
Great, though I don't know how I'd find the time to re-read them. OTOH, I could donate the books to a library or hospital and free up a few feet of shelf space in my library!
User slweippert referenced to your post from Do you think it is possible to write a good book if you never read? saying: [...] p; Originally posted by at Do you think it is possible to write a good book if you never read? [...]
I don't even understand why anyone who doesn't read would even want to write. Do they think it's a quick way to fame and fortune?
I'm still waiting for those!

To be fair, this was just a KID. She's the age I was when I dove into the 808 section of the library, never to return.


November 27 2011, 19:39:46 UTC 8 years ago Edited:  November 27 2011, 19:40:53 UTC

As are all the writers I personally know.

Yeah, I just don't understand not loving stories, fiction or non-fiction. And to be fair, if you don't grow up in a reading household, it's hard to pick up. Possibly she sees the interviews with said big name authors and thinks it is easy, just like everything is easy, right?

It's like... like... Wanting to be a foreign language translator but not wanting to learn the foreign language. Bzuh?
As a librarian and writer, I'd like to suggest that she talk to her local librarian. We're very good at taking the themes from the crappy book she loved and finding really good books that might also catch her attention. :)
User charlesatan referenced to your post from November 28, 2011 Links and Plugs saying: [...] Elrod on Do you think it is possible to write a good book if you never read? [...]