Good Writing Advice: The Writing to Reading Ratio

3-1 hours ratioToday’s pearl of wisdom for writers at any stage comes from Kate Southwood, author of Falling To Earth, in a piece she contributed to Writer’s Digest. It’s a simple rule, and one you’ve probably heard before:

Read good writing.

“Another writer once told me that if you have four hours to write, you should spend one of those hours reading.”

While Southwood immediately suggests that this ratio will vary, I think the fact of the writing-to-reading ratio is one of the very first rules of being a writer. In regards to this rule I often remember something my fourth grade teacher taught us when we were drawing sea shells with pen and ink: You should spend as much time studying your subject as you do replicating it. Again, even if it isn’t a half and half or a three to one quarter time split, good reading is essential to good writing because input influences output.

So make time for reading– and choose your books with care. As Southwood says, “I only read novels that make my jaw drop to the floor, force me to read slowly, and make me ask how on earth the writer did that.” Read other excellent writing tips from Kate Southwood in her contribution to the Writer’s Digest column, “7 Things I’ve Learned So Far.”

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7 thoughts on “Good Writing Advice: The Writing to Reading Ratio

  1. Reading good books is a fantastic way to learn how good writing should sound, which makes it much easier to know what your writing should sound like. But couldn’t reading “bad” books be just as useful? A writer can see what does and doesn’t work without making those mistakes themselves.

    • That’s what I’ve tended to think as well. (I mean, what writer hasn’t read something and thought ‘I would have done THAT differently…’?) I think, as long as we…read a balanced diet…we might get the best of both worlds.

      Thanks for reading and sharing your perspective!

    • Haha, I KNOW! Have you seen my reading list (the one on my blog)? It’s near 100 items now, and it’s not even a full compilation!

      But whenever I start to panic I step back and remember…I ENJOY READING! *And* it helps me be a better writer? To borrow from Charlie Sheen, WINNING.

      What are you reading now, Professor?

      • Goodness! 😆 The professor would die with a list like that!

        Yes, that’s a good way to look at it, though the professor doesn’t believe it–for himself, that is.

        As of now, The Great Gatsby–again, so that I can do a ripping. How about you?

        • Great Gatsby! (Which sounds a fantastic interjection, by the way.) Classic, classic literature. “Ripping”– is that to say you’ll be reporting on it with a critical eye?

          Having just finished the tome that is Stephen King’s 11/22/63, I’m trying to clear some of the other books from my reading box (Grimm’s Fairy Tales and Letters to a Young Poet) before I start Logan’s Run, which I’m really excited about! 🙂

          • It does, you are absolutely right! In a way. You see, the professor frequently rips books on his blog. It’s a vicious, professorish thing to do, but it’s also fun.

            I liked Grimm’s Fairy Tales, and you must tell me what you think of Logan’s Run!!!

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