The Reading Challenge by Allison Symes

I can guess what you’re thinking. Surely reading shouldn’t be a challenge to a writer? Surely it is something we just do (and absolutely love)?

We know we need to read widely and well, including contemporary works, to have a good reading diet which, in turn, will inspire our imaginations, right? To say nothing of the fact it makes sense to support the industry we want to be part of, right?

So many of us became writers because of our passion for stories in the first place. I know I had a sense of wanting to give something back to the great big writing pool as a way of saying thank you for all the pleasure I continue to have from the books I love.

Asking yourself questions about work you've loved reading may trigger ideas for your work. It always has for me. Pixabay

That’s all true but reading should be a challenge to a writer.


Good stories, of whatever length, should encourage us all to “up our game”. It doesn’t matter whether you’ve written one story or one million, or if you’re published or not. What should happen is a good story you’ve enjoyed reading should encourage you to make your story the best you can make it.

Good questions to ask whether you're looking at what makes a story or a non-fiction piece work for you. Pixabay

The thing to remember here is that author whose work you’ve loved was a new writer once too. They will have gone through their fair share of rejections, not hearing back from publishers, agents, competitions and so on. (I can only think of one author whose work was accepted immediately and he knew that was unusual. The late great Terry Pratchett then learned his craft writing more novels and having to follow up on that first success).

And for the non-fiction fans, this applies to you too. The author of that non-fiction piece which has just made you go “Wow” will have had enough rejections to paper the proverbial wall in their time (even if is an electronic wall these days!).

It is true overnight success in writing is often a matter of timing - it takes years usually!

Overnight success in writing is highly unlikely but support from other writers along the way makes  a huge difference. How can you encourage and support others? What kind of support could you do with? Pixabay

Looking in depth at what it was you liked about this story or article is a great way to learn. The more you read (and the more widely), the more opportunities you have to learn and to put those lessons into practice with your own writing. You discover what you like and loathe. That’s invaluable.

Perhaps one of the girls here is contemplating just what it is about the story that works for her. Pixabay

Ask yourself questions about something that struck you.

What did the author do to make this piece sad or funny? What made you feel it was sad or funny?

Why did you identify with the characters? How did they make you react?

Good stories and articles will make you question. Analysing what makes them work for you is good practice and you can learn so much from that. Pixabay

For non-fiction, ask how the author drew you in so you had to read the rest of the article? What impact did that article have and why?

And if you need a come back for anyone who dares dismiss you for “just” reading, tell them you are learning your craft from those who’ve gone before you, so there!

Only two responses for this picture. 1. Let me at those lovely books NOW.  2. Will someone please tell me when it is time to go home? Pixabay


  1. I've learned a lot from making notes on the structure of novels as I've read them, summarising at the top of each page what it contains, and noting flashbacks or dropped clues or changes in perspective. I've found that so helpful.

  2. Allison, I chuckled at the concept of the overnight success - which generally takes years to achieve. I feel very encouraged by this. Rejection is hard, but we have to keep going. Look at Jane Austen!!!

    1. Indeed, Ruth. JA was a trailblazer for the self-published though she didn't know it! I think it was someone like Joanna Trollope who said about overnight success taking thirty years initially but it is SO true.

    2. It is! I am hoping to cut it down to a year, but hey, if it takes thirty, it takes thirty!

    3. You can always set a new record here, Ruth! (A lower than thirty one, obviously!).


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