The Benefits of Reading Non-Fiction Books (as a writer or normy)

Just a small post today. I have a feeling this is an instance of stating the obvious, but even then it is sometimes necessary to do just that to see how many people actually think alike.

When it comes to finding new ideas for your next story, many writers, usually at the beginning of their career or hobby, see the finding of inspiration as a big problem. I have to admit, I have felt the same for a long time. Nowadays I have found the solution to that problem. Many experienced writers have stated before that reading and writing is the best training for a novice writer. I would agree with that, all I have to add to that is the following: don’t just read fiction.

I’m a pretty big fan of non-fiction. A lot of people immediately think of boring school text books, but that’s not necessarily the case. Be they biographies, historical, political, or otherwise in nature, reading non-fiction is a great way to find out about the world around and get inspired by it. Many concepts in stories I have (and am) working on  are influenced all the time by the non-fiction section of my bookshelves. Usually I’ll find a way to apply that book on militarism or political shenanigans to something I have seen on television or read in a fiction book. Then you combine the two and already have the idea for a new story, whether consciously aware of it or not. 

Going back to a previous post about embracing failure, a new writer also has to come to terms with the fact that there is nothing new under the sun. Humanity has dealt with the same issues since its very beginning, even if the circumstances and details change, the basics remain the same. Therefore you can apply anything to a good story, fantasy, fiction, crime, doesn’t matter. Best example is a book I’m currently reading by journalist and political commentator Thomas Frank: “What’s The Matter With Kansas”. You can easily find yourself thinking of the average family that goes through such a change (in this case progressives finding themselves voting for Republicans over the course of decades) and immediately you have a story to tell. Maybe you use it to inform the setting of your next crime novel, maybe its part of a science fiction novel you’re working on, but you can see my point there. I usually try to read at least one book of fiction and non-fiction at the same time or alternate after I finish one. Audible helps with that a lot too.

And you know what, even if you are not a writer or aspiring to be one, you should read non-fiction too. It broadens your horizon and gives you additional reference points when enjoying that next movie or getting a reference in that song on the radio, or simply by helping you make conversations that don’t inevitably revolve around Star Trek or comic books. Now you can talk about how the economics of Star Trek are bonkers. Brilliant!


Author: Alex

Full time student, part time "writer" of things.

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