First be a Reader by Wendy H. Jones


I know, I know, I'm preaching to the converted here, but hear me out. In order to be a good writer, one must first be a voracious reader. Hands up if you agree with that. Perfect we are all on the same page then, so this will be a short post. Well, no, actually. 

'What?' I hear you say. We do need to be voracious readers. Yes, you are right and before you think I am going mad, let me explain. I am a voracious reader. I've been reading since I was three years old -- I was an extremely early reader. I'd read my way through the entire children's section of the local library before I was ten and was fortunate enough to be given an adult library card. Don't ask how that happened. I think it involved sacrificing chickens and my mother spending many hours wrangling with the head librarian. To be honest, I think the librarian gave in just to get this mad woman out of her library.
Anyways, I had read my way through the following series -- Cherry Ames Nursing Books (I followed her entire career), Sue Barton (also a nurse and her whole career), Milly Molly Mandy, Famous Five, Secret Seven, The Folk of the Faraway Tree, every other book by Enid Blyton, The Hardy Boys, Nancy Drew, Biggles etc. etc. There were many more, all of which have faded from my memory. I moved on to Agatha Christie, Maigret (the books not the TV series), anything by Daphne Du Maurier, P.G. Wodehouse, in fact I could read anything I wanted. One Christmas my mother bought me a load of books, which I am sure came from the bargain bin in Woolworths, entitled The Children's Classics. These were the proper classics with kids covers on -- I kid you not. I read all the classics -- Dickens, Bronte, etc before I started at Secondary School. I also spent one glorious summer holiday reading my way through a set of vampire books called Barnabas Collins. That's easy to do in Scotland as we were in a caravan and it bucketed with rain for the four weeks we were there. 

Why the trip down memory lane?

The one thing you will notice about all of this is that I read widely. In fact, I read anything I could get my hands on.

Fast forward to today. Am I still a voracious reader? Absolutely one hundred percent.

Do I still read widely? Er, no.

I find I grab the nearest crime book or cozy mystery and there I stay. It's like a warm comfort blanket wrapping me in the familiar. Okay, I've got an excuse I tell myself. I'm a crime writer, of course I read crime. But, does this make me a better writer?

I'm not entirely sure it does. Therefore, I have been pushing myself to read more widely in a variety of genres such as literary fiction, historical, fantasy, dystopian, chick lit etc. I've discovered some cracking books such as They Both Die in the End, and The Midnight Library. I've discovered a new series called Talin and the Tree by Stephanie Dos Santos. Portal Fantasy, it had me hooked from the first word. I've rediscovered my love of reading widely and I am enjoying the adventure. I believe it makes me a better writer because I am steeped in different words, different sentence structures and different tropes. 

So, my plea to all writers today is to read widely. My plea to all readers is to read widely. You never know what books you might find and where it might take you. Enjoy the journey. I'm about to go on a two month trip to the United States and I am already planning which books I will be taking with me.

My question to you is, what are you reading at the moment? I would love some suggestions for my trip. Please post in the comments below.

And do you ready widely? I would love to know. 

About the Author

Wendy H. Jones is an award-winning, international best-selling author who writes adult crime books, young adult mysteries, children's picture books and non-fiction books for writers. She is also a writing and marketing coach, runs the Writing Matters Online School and is the CEO of Authorpreneur Accelerator Academy, The president of the Scottish Association of Writers and hosts The Writing and Marketing Show podcast. She is currently writing a series of historical fiction novels based around the life of a 19th Century Surgeon in the Royal Navy. 


Amazon Author Page


Peter Leyland said…
Great post Wendy and forgive me if I respond too quickly. I too am a voracious reader but more of literary things these days because of my teaching for the Workers' Educational Association. I am just reading Mr Pip by Lloyd Jones a Booker runner up in 2007. It's dystopian, the narrator is a 13 year old girl, and that's just for starters - I'm about two thirds through...Have a great time in the US.
I used to read more than I presently do, but I've read lots especially when a child, when pregnant, when living in Canada in the winter...I read my way through Iris Murdoc and Rumer Godden when expecting twins, I read my way through John Buchan as a pre-teen, when I joined the Alliance of Independent Authors I read a lot of books by fellow Indie writers, I've read loads of non-Western writers such as Kamila Shamsie, Leila Aboulela, Khaled Housienni, Ahdaf Soueif (all those are kind of post-colonial I suppose,) I've recently read 3 of Sally Rooney's novels (maybe that's all she's written so far?) and 3 by Sarah Moss. I've read several by Patrick Gale. This is possibly heavily on the literary side, mostly, but they are definitely 'readable literary'! And they undoubtedly influence what I write. I think I learned to read age4-5, taught at home by my Mum who was a trained junior teacher. Oh and back then, I adored Beatrix Potter books, especially for the pictures, and I loved the Alice Books at age 7!
Wendy H. Jones said…
Peter, you can never respond too quickly. That’s not one I’ve heard of but I will definitely be checking it out.
Wendy H. Jones said…
Clare, you are a woman after my own heart. What an eclectic mix of reading materials and also fascinating. I, too read Iris Murdoch and read the Alice books ata frightfully early age.
vasrajb said…
Wendy Jones, you are absolutely right. One needs to be a voracious reader to become a good writer. I have my own mini library with me at home. I participate regularly in Nanowrimo ( National Novel Writing Month). I have been doing it since 2015. My books " The Untold Love Story"," Close Encounter of a different kind" and my 31 poem anthology titled "Cakewalk" are already on the Amazon. Do buy and read them when you have time and drop in a line or two in review. I will be thankful. I am currently writing " Tapaswini Kantha" as a part of July 2022 Nanowrimo.
Wendy H. Jones said…
Thank you For taking the time to comment. Good luck with the new book.
Aggie C said…
I too have read ever since I learned how and have never stopped. I've occasionally dipped into non fiction but my first love is stories and I'll read whatever takes my fancy. Over the years it's certainly been a wide-ranging haul and I can't imagine how frustrated and impoverished I would feel without books. When people say they don't read I think it is strange to be satisfied with just one life. Reading fiction, I am convinced, enhances the reader's knowledge, wisdom, empathy and emotional intelligence.
Wendy H. Jones said…
Aggie, I agree with everything you say here and you say it so well.

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