Which did make me wonder, if they never read it, how they knew they liked it? Or did they just like their own? Which is an understandable position to take I suppose. I've had students in the past who say they want to write a novel, but don't have time to read them. I've even once been told by a would-be writer that they don't see the point of novels - not that that was going to stop them from writing their own and making a million (as one does).
But...how do you think Austen, Dickens, Conrad, Tolstoy (add any author whose work you enjoy who was writing pre WWI) learned their craft? There weren't creative writing classes to go to, or creative writing books. They learned from reading. And from the theatre and hearing story tellers, but primarily from their own reading.
You should read extensively in the area that you wish to write. If you read westerns, that's what you should be writing. There's no point in wishfully dreaming about winning the Booker with your novel if your internal compass is pointing to romantic fiction. By reading within your area you get an instinctive grasp on the rules. That way you can choose to break them. You'll also know when you've genuinely got a new idea, or where your idea fits into the market.
Reading hot wires your brain first to recognise good writing, and then to write it yourself. Ask around and you won't find many published novelists who aren't readers. Reading is the breathing in, and writing is the breathing out. The two go together.
And besides, if you don't read other people, how can you expect anyone to read you?
PS I'll write about voice/influence in the next post.
NEW!!! I've finally got round to organising some course dates....
How to WRITE a Novel: London 3rd May/Birmingham 7th May/
Oxford 8th May/Exeter 21st May/Bath 12th June
How to SELL a Novel: London 24th May/Exeter 4th June/
Bath 3rd July Details are on my website