Note: A modified version of this post first appeared as part of Blydyn Square Books’ Ask the Editor video segment in February 2018.

When people find out I’m an editor, they often tell me that they have a great idea for a book they should write (often it’s their own life story). “It’s a surefire bestseller,” they tell me.”

It happens all the time. And almost as often, the very next thing that comes out of their mouth is: “But I don’t like to read.”

Okay—that, right there? Is what we editors call a red flag. A big one.

See, we ALL have stories, but that doesn’t mean that all of us need to write those stories down. Having a story doesn’t make you a writer; it just makes you human. It’s writing and reading—dare I say, especially reading?—that makes you a writer.

If I can offer just one piece of advice to all you aspiring writers out there, it’s this:

If you don’t read—constantly, obsessively, as if you need to consume books as much as you need to breathe air—please do us all a favor: Don’t try to write.

If you don’t believe me (and I get that I’m nobody special, so why should you?), then maybe you’ll believe Stephen King. He said: “If you don’t have the time to read, you don’t have the time (or the tools) to write. Simple as that.”

So that’s my advice. If you fancy yourself a writer, you have to be a reader first.

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