I’ve shaken my head many times after hearing a writer proclaim that they don’t read much. That’s akin to a Doctor who never went to Medical school. Great writers are also great readers!
Reading is important for a fiction writer on so many levels, from genre structures to how to craft a novel. The information is there, so why wouldn’t you study it?
First, if the fiction that you write falls into any sort of genre, then you better have read books within that genre. These books tend to have formulas, and following them can be the difference between publication and rejection. You wouldn’t submit a category romance without the girl actually getting the guy at the end.
Reading is also a way to absorb great writing, to train your brain as to how a well-crafted sentence feels as it trickles over your tongue. There is no better way to elevate your prose than by reading, and reading a lot.
Some writers, while working on a particular story, refuse to read anything that resembles their story, for fear of accidentally plagiarizing. This is a legitimate fear, and one you would be well heeded to pay attention to. However, this doesn’t mean that you should never read in the genre you write; just avoid those books while actively working on something. But you should still read. If you are writing a mystery, read something literary. If you are writing something literary, read a romance.
Another reason to read abundantly is so that you can see what plots have been used or over used. Your original idea may not be original after all, but you wouldn’t know that unless you read voraciously.
By reading, you can see how differing point-of-views can help or hinder a story. You can see how effective pacing can turn a yawn-of-a-plot into a page-turner. You can see how other writers work back-story into carefully chosen segments of the story, instead of starting off with ten pages of exposition. Reading will allow you to consider your options when writing dialog, when weaving a plot, when writing the last paragraph of your story.
I once had a writer say that he didn’t read very often, because he wanted his stories to be 100% unique and out-standing. My answer to that was, well, you may end up with something all-together new, but there is a good chance that it will be so unique that no one will want to read it. Or, you will inadvertently write a plot that has been done to death, or use the entirely wrong POV for a story. If you don’t know how high the bar is set, how can you possibly hope to jump over it?
Reading novels is like studying for the Fiction Writing Graduate Exams, you have to study, study, study, before you can hope to pass into the elite group of graduates, or published writers.
Still Unconvinced? Try one of these: