And we as authors should, for the most part, read in the same genre as we write. This is essential. If you are not reading the same genre as you write, then you may want to evaluate your "to read" list. That's not to say you can't deviate once in awhile, especially when it comes to reading the books of your associates.(What goes around comes around).
But even more important than reading in your genre, is just reading. When I started writing, I thought I didn't have time to read. I went a whole year without reading a single novel while I worked on my first book. I look back now and see how ineffective that decision was. Now, I realize that by reading others' books, not only do I give my brain a renewing diversion, but I see what I like and don't like about their writing style or story presentation, and learn from it.
"Read! Read! Read! And then read some more. When you find something that thrills you, take it apart paragraph by paragraph, line by line, word by word, to see what made it so wonderful. Then use those tricks the next time you write."
That charge to writers happens to come from novelist W.P. Kinsella, but in fact he's echoing centuries of good advice. Numerous other authors, past and present, have stressed the importance of reading to a writer's development. I've listed just a few below.
For a man to write well, there are required three necessaries: to read the best authors, observe the best speakers, and much exercise of his own style.
(Ben Jonson, Timber, or Discoveries, 1640)
Reading is to the mind what exercise is to the body.
(Richard Steele, The Tatler, 1710)
Read the best books first, or you may not have a chance to read them at all.
(Henry David Thoreau, A Week on the Concord and Merrimack Rivers, 1849)
Read everything--trash, classics, good and bad, and see how they do it. Just like a carpenter who works as an apprentice and studies the master. Read! You'll absorb it. Then write. If it is good, you'll find out.
(William Faulkner, interviewed by Lavon Rascoe for The Western Review, Summer 1951)
- If you read good books, when you write, good books will come out of you. Maybe it's not quite that easy, but if you want to learn something, go to the source. . . . Dogen, a great Zen master, said, "If you walk in the mist, you get wet." So just listen, read, and write. Little by little, you will come closer to what you need to say and express it through your voice.
(Natalie Goldberg, Writing Down the Bones: Freeing the Writer Within, rev ed., 2005)