To both of these statements I want to throw my hands up and say, “Seriously?”
To me, a writer who doesn’t read is as absurd as a pro-football player who doesn’t want to watch another team’s football games in case he gets “confused” about his own moves. It’s just as illogical as an artist who doesn’t want to view another’s paintings for fear of becoming contaminated.
If you are a writer, reading is simply a part of your job. Period. Can you tell I feel strongly about this? I believe that even in the middle of deadline stress, time should be allocated for reading.
Stephen King in On Writing says that his mornings are for writing and his afternoons are for reading. And I know this is true. I live near him, and a friend of mine in Bangor said she saw him in a cafe one afternoon reading a book. Taking time for reading has not seemed to affect his prolificness at all.
And the worries about it affecting or changing your "writer’s voice?” It just won’t happen. It’s as silly as saying, “if I hang around with tall people, will I become tall?” Your writer’s voice is unique to you and part of your personality. As you immerse yourself in a variety of words from many genres and many styles, your voice will be strengthened and deepened. It will make your writing more your own, rather than less.
Reading widely and reading a lot, will increase your fount of words. You will learn how novels (or whatever it is you are writing) work. Clues? Red herrings? Description? Vocabulary? Dialogue descriptors? Just by reading, good literature, you will learn when and how to use them.
All of this happens on the subconscious level. You may be engrossed in the latest thriller while subconsciously your brain is saying, “Ah, so that’s where she put the clue! How clever!” Or, “I like that dialogue. It sounds like the way people really talk.” If you read good writing, good writing will cement itself into your brain without you even thinking about it.
Are there things we can do on a conscious level? Maybe.
1. Re-read--and note. I have on my Kobo a “shelf” of good books I want to read again. The first time you read a book, it’s all about the story. The better the book, the more engrossed you become, and less you notice things like description and style and placement of clues and suspense.
By the second reading these things will jump out at you. The second read through will have you evaluating why this book had you weeping on the floor. A second read through and you can even make notes. (I love eReaders for this capability.)
But even during a first reading you can re-read the paragraph or the chapter and ask yourself, how does she do it? How is that author so drawing me in? When you come across a very beautiful sentence, stop and highlight it.
2. Always read writing that is better than your own. This cut-off point is different for every writer. When you read stories that aren’t as good as what you can write, you simply may leave the book with raised eyebrows and say, “Well, I can write as good as that.” And you probably can.
But you don’t want to “write as good as that,” you want to write better.
The good writing, the better writing will seep into your brain and the words and descriptions will become a part of your own well of words.
3. Read widely. Read often. Even when you are in the middle of a deadline, never be without a book on the go. Waiting in line at the grocery store? Make sure there is a book downloaded onto your phone. (And make sure it’s a good one.) Read the books you love to write, but also read outside of your genre.
Join a book club. I am in a book club and over the past few years have read books I would never ordinarily pick up. And this has widened my world view and strengthened my own writing.
4. Choose reading over other activities. I know you feel like vegging in front of Mad Men, but pick up that book and make yourself read two chapters before you reach for the remote. (If it’s a good book, I bet you will keep on reading.)
Are you getting my point? Writers read. Writers learn from what they read.
Is reading important to you as a writer? What is the last book you read?
Connect with Linda:
Website | Facebook | Twitter | Goodreads
HOW TO READ BOOKS LIKE A WRITER by @writerhall http://goo.gl/GaFcRt #theartistunleashed #writers