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Legendary writer Alan Moore explains why it’s important to read ‘terrible’ books not just good ones

Alan Moore, 69, is a legendary comic book writer best known for “Watchmen,” “V for Vendetta,” “The Ballad of Halo Jones,” “Swamp Thing,” “Batman: The Killing Joke” and “From Hell.”

Moore is known as one of the best comic book writers in the English language, and his advice for fellow scribes is a bit counterintuitive. He believes that it’s as important to read “terrible” books as it is classic literature.

“As a prospective writer, I would urge you to not only read good books. Read terrible books as well, because they can be more inspiring than the good books,” Moore says in a clip taken from his BBC Maestro online storytelling course.

“If you are inspired by a good book, there’s always the danger of plagiarism, of doing something that is too much like that good book,” Moore says in the video. “Whereas, a genuinely helpful reaction to a piece of work that you’re reading is, ‘Jesus Christ, I could write this sh*t!’ That is immensely liberating — to find somebody who is published who is doing much, much worse than you.”

Moore also believes that being exposed to bad writing can help you learn from other writers’ mistakes. Knowing why something doesn’t work can be as valuable as understanding why something succeeds.

“And by analyzing why they are doing so badly, this will immensely help your own style. You’ll find out all of the mistakes not to make,” Moore continues. “‘Why did this story offend me so much?’ Analyze that. Find out why you didn’t like it. Find out all of the examples of clumsiness or bad thinking that spoiled the story for you.”

So, next time someone judges you for reading something that some would call “terrible,” remind them that the only way to be great is to be able to understand the awful.