owl in winter

owl in winter

Sunday, February 28, 2010

Reading and Writing

You know, it seems to me that suddenly, everybody wants to write a book. I hear it a lot these days. Someone will say, "If I had the time..." or, "I'm going to write a book when my kids are grown" or, "I could write that book better than that guy."

Well, then I ask, what do you read? Who do you read? At that point, it seems the would-be world famous novelist doesn't read. Doesn't have time or, just isn't much of a reader.
Sorry, that is not the way it works.

There are two requirements to being a writer. One is to write. A lot. Write a lot, at regular intervals, with no distractions.

The other requirement is to read. A lot. Regular intervals, no distractions.

The two requirements cannot be separated.

Every book, every author, brings a learning curve to your work. I like to read, simply because I like to read. I enjoy it. I make time for it. Granted, I could be "doing" something else but I choose to read. It's about the craft, sure, but it's also because I like it.

As a writer, reading should be paramount to your craft. Reading teaches such things as character development, plot structure, narration, the telling of a good story. Without reading, how would you know good versus bad, interesting versus dull, pace versus stagnant? Reading shows you elements of your own work; what needs to be developed, what is needful and necessary and, on the other hand, what is not. Your work is in a constant state of refinement. Without reaching into other worlds, without that stretch, you could never know that.

What to read? It doesn't matter what you read so long as you do it. You may not like fiction as I do. Okay, then. Read non-fiction. Make time. Take a book to your next doctor appointment. Slow the pace down for one hour and read in the morning or in the evening. Read while you're sitting in the car line at school. I've even taken a paperback to a restaurant (I was eating alone) and read while waiting for my meal. Go to your library, make friends of the librarian. Check the Sunday paper best-seller list. Buy second hand books. Here's a thought - watch less television. Read instead. Do what you must but, do read.

You will truly, truly find reading will enrich your writing. It can't help itself.

Now, challenge yourself to read every day. Every day. Monitor yourself and, in a month or two months or six months, compare what you wrote today to what you will be writing that day. On that day, your mind will be so much more open and fresh. Your characters will be more full-bodied, as opposed to one-dimensional. You will understand more about plot and pace.

I guarantee it.

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