"Required reading" for today's smart writer.

"Required reading" for today's smart writer.
Information & inspiration to hone your craft and increase your cash...Since 2009

Sunday, September 9, 2012

1 Amateur Mistake to Avoid!

Guest Post by Sarah Webb

To quickly spot an amateur, ask them what they’ve read lately.

A serious writer will have trouble answering because they’re currently reading so much--books, newspapers, magazines, literary journals, blogs, etc.

A writer merely dabbling in the practice will have trouble answering because they haven’t been reading.

One of the worst mistakes amateurs make in their writing careers long before they ever start typing is not reading enough.

Just how important is reading?

According to Stephen King, “If you want to be a writer, you must do two things above all others: read a lot and write a lot.”

Did you catch my emphasis? The reason so many amateurs are flooding the market with bad stuff is they’re doing a whole lot of writing but not a whole lot of reading.

Even though advice from Stephen King, one of the most prolific and well-paid authors ever, should be fairly sobering, I’ll tell you why it’s actually good advice.

• Karma (or Reciprocity). Writers write so others can read. Only a selfish, narcissistic, and arrogant person would expect the world to read their writing without being compelled to read someone else’s. Surely that’s not you.

• Cultivate a Love of Written Language. The more you read, the more you’ll discover a passion for written language. Without passion, your writing, career, and life will implode.

• Malnourished Minds Don’t Work. Reading offers ideas, inspiration, and opportunities to stretch your imagination and creativity. It’s an excellent remedy to writer’s block, if you believe in such a thing.

As promised, here are five ways you can avoid this egregious, amateur mistake and build the professional writing practice you’ve always dreamed of.

1. Reading about your craft.
Books on writing, like Stephen King’s, are not only excellent examples of well-crafted expository writing, but they offer practical advice that will help your writing and career in tangible ways.

2. Read about your niche.
If you have a niche blog, or you’re working on stories or poems based on a particular topic, make sure you consume tons of material on that subject.

3. Read broadly.
Venture outside of your niche. Read about anything remotely interesting-- good, bad, man, woman, child, scientific, funny, famous, foreign, local, classic, or contemporary. There’s strength in diversity, you learn from everything, and you may enjoy something you didn’t expect.

4. Read deeply.
To really get the most out of reading, read like a writer. Study the author’s choices, technique, style, and organization. Analyze. Question. Reread. How’d they reel you in? How’d they end?

5. Read a lot.
You must repeat items 1-4 as often as possible. Every day.
The defining characteristic of an amateur is lack of experience. Other than writing a lot, the fastest way to boost your experience and knowledge of written language is to read a lot.

So, what have you read lately, and how has reading been a part of your writing practice?

Sarah L. Webb is teaching college writing in Louisiana, working on a collection of architecture poems, and blogging about books on writing and other off topic issues at S. L. Writes.


  1. Thanks for your post Sarah,

    Some years ago I read a book about Speed Reading that opened my eyes, because of that book I discovered that paradoxically reading faster can actually help with understanding the thoughts of the writer better.

    When I would have read this book sooner, I might have developed much more enjoyment from reading (fiction) books early on. While I still am not really such a book reader, I now am developing a little more enjoyment in book reading, and amazingly enough I also actually do have a - Book Review Blog -at: hpshappybooks.blogspot.com where I write Book Reviews.

    It's not alway's easy to find the time to actually read books, so that's why I usually let others read them, that's also the reason that on that Book Review Blog of mine, I ask - the readers - to write their comments on books, or to give their book suggestions. Only while compared to my other blogs - where I do frequently get comments on blogposts - paradoxically Readers & Writer's seem to be the worst comment writers! :)

    For what a Book I read 'recently' is concerned, last year
    on vacation I read a (not to many pages) little book from Paul Coelho and I also do read loads and loads of non-fictional books, magazines, newspapers, forums and blogs etc. etc. with high speed.

    For what Reciprocity is concerned, when people read more of my blogposts, write more comments, and buy more products I might be able to have longer vacations and make a little more time to read more books :)

    1. Jennifer Brown BanksSeptember 10, 2012 at 9:08 PM


      Thanks for your comment. Very interesting and entertaining. :-)

    2. That's very cool! I'll have to try speed reading. You're right that reading takes a lot of time, and it's already hard enough to find time to write or do anything.

      I'll have to stop by your blog for suggestions about good books. I plan to look into Paul Coelho too.

      Thanks for the feedback!

    3. That's very cool! I'll have to try speed reading. You're right that reading takes a lot of time, and it's already hard enough to find time to write or do anything.

      I'll have to stop by your blog for suggestions about good books. I plan to look into Paul Coelho too.

      Thanks for the feedback!

    4. Update;

      A more recent Blog about Books is;

      Homebusinessbook-ideas where you can find Info & Book Reviews about Non Fiction Books.

  2. Thanks Sarah and Jennifer. These are tips that pay off. Stop by later to see what I discovered in the grass ;)

    1. Jennifer Brown BanksSeptember 10, 2012 at 9:18 PM

      Thanks, Linda. Always great to connect with you. :-) Will do...

    2. Thanks for the feedback, Linda! I will definitely stop by. There's so much to see in the grass!

      -Sarah L. Webb

  3. Excellent post and yes, yes, yes! AGree. ;) Just wish I could read faster...I am a slower reader. One who savors, chews and ponders.

    1. Jennifer Brown BanksSeptember 10, 2012 at 9:29 PM

      Modern Day Disciple,

      I can relate. :-) Thanks for stopping by and weighing in today.

    2. What I recall from the Speed reading book I wrote about in my comment, as far as I understand you can train your reading speed by enlarging your (I do believe the word was) 'Recognised Span' or in other words the 'Span of words' you can (Visually) directly can recognise at one glance,

      (and here it comes...,) - Not - do 'Sub Vocalisation' or in other words, - Not - say the words to yourself (as 'Audio'),
      just keeping it a direct 'Visual Understanding'.

      As far as I did understand it, the process of turning the words into 'Audio' limits reading speed, and paradoxically also limits better understanding it as a whole. (I do think that you might be able to compare this instantly recognising words with instantly recognising a whole face, instead of just looking at a bunch of eyes, ears and a nose etc. etc.)

    3. MDD, I am a slow reader too, especially if it's something like fiction or poetry. I try to read other things more quickly, like blog posts, news papers, and other informative pieces.

      Thanks for commenting!

    4. There is also special software that can flash words of a book at certain adjustable speeds...,

      With it I once experienced a somewhat Subliminal Effect, I was somewhat surprised to be able to answer so many questions about the content, after only a very short 'Flashing Exposure'.

      (Currently I don't know the name of the software, I do believe that I have it bookmarked somewhere on an other computer.)

  4. Sarah, Amen. This is excellent advice succinctly and sincerely given. What every serious writer probably already knows, but can never be told often enough. I'm currently reading mysteries in analytically and am surprised at some of my findings. Okay, and I'm also reading in comparison mode as I have a mystery coming out in November. Thanks for this guest, Jennifer.

    1. Congrats on your book, Susan! Please let us know when and where we can get a copy. I'm glad you got something out of the post, and as you're doing, it's good practice to immerse ourselves in the kind of writing we actually do.

      All Best

  5. Jennifer Brown BanksSeptember 11, 2012 at 3:12 AM

    Glad to host Sarah, Susan. Glad you liked this as well. :-)

  6. Good stuff! I agree, if Stephen King is telling us to do those things, then we should heed that advice. Have been thinking about #4 lately. I do this often when I read the same genre as my WIP. Thanks, Sarah, for sharing, and Jen, for hosting!

    Have a great weekend!

  7. Hi Karen,

    Glad to have you chime in. Thanks for your time. :-)