> Seth Underwood Stories: “You must read to write!” Ack!

“You must read to write!” Ack!

untitled image, By Kiyun Lee, Source Unsplash

As a writer, I absolutely despise the phrase-

You must read to write!

You see this everywhere online. Even though reading and writing are two different brain functions. Yes, they are interconnected, but still different.

I prefer the phrase-

Writers write, and editors read.

As an author, do I read?

Duh. I read scientific journals on psychology and biology as it relates to the understanding of quantum states. I dig through historical textbooks I own for bits of information. I read Medium articles on topics like feminism and artificial intelligence (not that the two are connected).

I do all this for my writing. Any sci-fi author worth their salt is forced to read research materials.

Do I read another author’s book?

This is harder for me. I rarely like to read other authors because I’ll subconsciously copy their style and voice. Oddly, many writing pundits are telling authors indirectly to do that- copy the style and voice that’s selling right now.

This is a writing strategy to sell books, and not to improve the author’s writing skills. Beyond grammatical and spelling issues, style is a subjective interpretation.

Reading other authors to glean something about their writing is nothing but economic espionage. I know, because I’ve done it. And on the other end, it’s capitalizing off the success of someone else to ride their financial windfall. I’m amazed the industry doesn’t have more copyright lawsuits over this issue.

True Writing Success

In the end, any writer can become a bestseller. This is not determined by the skill of the author in their ability to write, or the fact people like their writing style. So long as the grammatics and spelling is okay, the writing should do. After all, today’s books are written on a 5th grade level thanks to programs like ProWritingAid.

Success has more to do with the publishing industry’s ability to create a buying synergy around an author or title. Once that happens, then you are in the top 1%. The opposite reality is more because of consumer resistance to move to new products and how selling algorithms work than anything else.

Therefore, so many books today, like video games, are given away for free to overcome consumer resistance and to try to trick the algorithms. The selling of video games and the selling of books are ironically more similar than dissimilar.

Game and book publishers have overcrowded both markets, with only a few titles at the very top doing well. And the powers that be want to keep it that way.