January 31

If you don’t read, please don’t write.


You want to know how to write? Let me give you some advice. I asked a budding author once what books he read. His response struck me as odd and, bear with me here, dangerous. Usually, you don’t think of the word “dangerous” when talking about writing. It might sound hyperbolic, maybe even silly, but I firmly believe it.

“I don’t read. I just watch movies.”

Budding Author

I just watch movies. A common misunderstanding about books and movies is that they’re the same thing. They both tell stories so you can just watch tons of movies and write novels, right?

Wrong. They’re not the same thing. Yes, they both have the capacity to tell stories, but saying they’re the same is like saying a box and a bowl are the same. They have the capacity to be filled with cereal and milk but, when given the chance, you probably would use the bowl over the box.

If you watch tons of movies, then go be a filmmaker. Maybe try your hand at a screenplay, but don’t presume you know a thing about writing a book. Don’t even try to write a book. It will be an absolute disaster. I fear so many budding authors, putting out self-published (maybe even traditional published) works, only watch movies and never read.

Novelists and authors need to be reading all the time. If you aren’t absorbing, studying, and filling your head with words everyday for hours on end, then you’re in dangerous territory.

Why dangerous? Because the written word is serious business. If you go about writing, you better treat it with respect. Because words change people; they change cultures; they change worlds. Words are a mighty magic that have real power. Use it without knowing what you’re doing and it will seriously backfire in your face.

Two of the best ways to learn how to be a good writer is to read and to write. It’s that simple. Yet, so many authors rarely read. Watching movies and writing is only half of the equation, but it’s a hazardous mix.

When was the last time you heard someone say the movie was better than the book? Probably never. Why do you think that is? Because books tell the story differently and have a greater and deeper capacity to tell a story. Movies are limited in time, depth, and breadth. Books, on the other hand, can eclipse galaxies and descend into the deepest oceans. But, only when they’re written well. Only when the author treats it with respect by being a proud and constant reader.

So, if you’re a budding author, and you aren’t reading every day, then it’s time to put down the pen (and the movies) and pick up the book. Read as much as possible. Read the genres you want to write. Read every book you can get your hands on. Study it and devour it like you would a good meal. Because, at the end of the day, all authors want their books to be reviewed with high praise. They don’t want to read reviews that say something along the lines of, “This book was a total mess, filled with grammar errors, and a big waste of my time. This author has no idea what they’re doing.” If all you know is movies and not words, then that review is in your future. I promise you that.

That’s what happened to the budding author that only watches movies.


how to write, reading, reading and writing, Writing, writing advice

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