Someone who wants to be a writer, has a good idea in his/her brain but is not much of a reader. Can that person be a good writer given that he/she has read a few novels but wants to write a great story.

What's your opinion/take?

  • 5
    Should a composer listen to music? Jul 27, 2020 at 12:27
  • Do you mean a prolific reader? Not to nitpick, but even a decent writer should have a broader vocabulary, and pick a word more precise than good/bad, big/small etc. Jul 27, 2020 at 22:19

8 Answers 8


Storytelling is a skill

Storytelling is not only a skill, it's a multi-faceted skill, a whole family of skills. To describe a scene, to set a mood, to foreshadow things to come later on, to develop interesting and engaging characters, to draw the readers in and get them emotionally committed, to plot within scenes and across scenes in an order and manner which makes sense, feels thorough, yet doesn't drag on...

You can have an intriguing idea, but that's not enough to make you a good writer.

Do you need to spend your time reading books in order to become a good writer? It helps. You can see how other people have done things, learn from their techniques how better to accomplish this or that aspect of telling an engaging story. Is this the only way to develop those skills? Probably not.

If you grew up in a community of storytellers, if you've spent years telling tales in your neighborhood, to your younger siblings, to your children, you may have had a chance to discover and hone many of the techniques you need to succeed in telling a good tale.

If you haven't spent much time reading, but you've watched movies, and you've watched life, and you've soaked up the feel of it all, and now you have an idea of a story you'd like to put together... You're only partway there. A short story, a novel, a spoken tale, are different animals than a more visual medium. Even if you can picture the scenes in your head, and have a good sense of how to fit a story together logically and engagingly... Which details to you put in as you're writing? Which details do you leave out?

If I were to describe the room around me in half a dozen words, which half-dozen words would communicate the mood of the room? Should I talk about the bookshelf and its contents, or the chair I'm sitting in, or the already-dried exercise clothes, still hung up from this morning, flapping in the breeze of the ceiling fan? Well, wouldn't the right words, the right aspect to reveal, depend on what I'm trying to say about the room, which would depend on the story I'm telling and the mood I want to set?

As with any skill, storytelling requires practice to do well, and reading the work of great storytellers will better inform you as to what to practice. But there are other ways to get there.

An idea may be great, just as a face may be beautiful. But there's more to sketching, painting, sculpting, than having a subject worthy of artistic endeavor. You also need the skill, and one part of gaining a skill is studying others' work.

  • 1
    Besides what to include, the how is also a thing to think about.
    – Trish
    Jul 27, 2020 at 12:44

Ask yourself, what is a successful or even great novel? To begin with, you as the writer have no input on the judgement of your work. That judgement lies entirely with your readers. When you write a novel (or any other creative work), you engage in a conversation between you as the writer and the readers of your work. That necessitates that there is common ground. You would not write a novel in Russian if you were targeting an English-speaking audience. You would not violate every convention of novel writing if you expected people to actually read the entire thing, particularly if the novel was your first one.

Think of every conversation that you have had. They follow certain protocols, certain patterns, certain conventions. The people on the other end of these conversations can take comfort in the familiarity of the interchange. The conversation works.

Reading novels, both great and awful, with a critical eye makes you as the prospective author aware of these patterns. If you have a mystery, there WILL be a dead body found early in the book; otherwise, you just have a mess that will confuse and turn off the reader who came searching for another good mystery to read.

There is also a whole universe of theories about story structure. Probably more than you can ever consume. Even if you did read all of them, they are not consistent with each other. Plus, there are great novels that ignore or bend the rules proposed by these theories. But I would be surprised to find that any of these rule-bending authors were ignorant of the rules.

I am not suggesting that you adhere to each and every one of these rules. Every author breaks some of the rules every time that they finish a scene. But the clever writers know that they are doing it, know the risks, and know the possible rewards. And if the readers see what they are doing and enjoy the results, that's OK.

Be a clever writer. Read everything that you can. Read the novels that you wish that you had written. Learn from the masters.


I think beginning to write is a great way to inspire reading. Reading is a process that can differ depending on the cause. If I feel inspired to write an essay on an unfamiliar topic, then I will likely dive right in and write a few lines before acknowledging my naivete. Eventually, my excitement will decay into the shame of having written garbage, but I will at least have more concrete questions to ask. And those questions can only be answered by reading the work of other minds.


A writer can always be a good reader. A writer feels, thinks & displays content on the paper. A writer always has direct connection with paper & pen. A a writer has habit of reading & writing his mistakes of reading can be quantitatively less and of course that totally depends on the person who are interacting with and what kind of a writer a person is.


There's a difference between a good reader and a vociferous one, so I'll assume your question isn't a duplicate of this one, about whether a novelist has to read many novels. But they are connected.

My answer to that question highlighted the value to novelists of reading non-fiction discussions of writing that condense well-worn insights; if nothing else, this is more efficient than reading a novel, seeing what three or four things you think you've learned about writing from seeing what it did, and repeating with the next novel. I bent over backwards to seek how, in learning how to write well, one could hypothetically minimize novels read, though I still didn't think it would go to zero (then again, you don't either).

If my proposed techniques work, it's because they teach you how to read novels well, then has you read carefully chosen ones. So the lesson for your question is that a novelist has to be a good reader in the sense of knowing how to learn from another writer. English literature lessons in school may have provided you with a perspective on this: what is the author doing, and why, and how? But that was more focused on understanding social context than how to write something publishable today.


Reading or listening to a written story told to you is the only way to witness examples of how to tell a story with just words. It's how you learn to craft pictures of the mind in the heads of your readers. Compare these three:

The streetlight flickering, unsteady shadows, a single man waiting.

Bob stood at the corner of mainstreat and first avenue. It rained. The light at this corner was defective. It flickered.

He stood at a corner, the flickering of the old bulb above him casting unsteady shadows in the puddle at his feet.

One is written as a poem, beautiful in it's own right, but not suitable to begin a story. The second example sounds rather rough, almost like a kid's essay. The last one takes what is essential to the picture and tries to make it one fluid description that reads easily.

  • Reading a lot is one way to avoid writing it's as a possessive. Jul 27, 2020 at 19:50

A good writer does not have to be a good reader, but they often go hand in hand. There are some rare cases. There are those great genius writers who did not do well in school, like Scott Fitzgerald. He did so poorly in school and was not a great writer in the beginning, but was an amazing storyteller. I definitely think writing well is hard without proper education and reading skills. Reading will enhance your vocabulary immensely, give you fresh new ideas, strengthen your writing structure, and really help your writing improve.



At least, in the sense that the writer should try to read as much as possible. If you want to become a better writer (why else would you be here?) then you have to study the craft. As long as you keep reading and keep trying to read more, then you will get better. This is just a fundamental truth to writing. you have to take in writing so that you know how to structure sentences if you want them to be funny, or serious, or informative. Blog posts and such can help you with that, but if you want to progress faster, you just have to start reading more.

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