Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Writing as a Reader

“If you don't have time to read, you don't have the time (or the tools) to write. Simple as that.” 
― Stephen King
In many ways, it just goes without saying. To be a good writer, you have to read. And I'm not talking about self-help, learn how to write guides. There are a lot of those out there, and we've shared a lot of ideas from such publications. Authors have an abundance of advice to give readers, lists of 'dos' and 'don'ts.' Honestly it can all become pretty exhausting.  But in the end, you can read every 'how-to' book there is on writing, and your writing still may not shine. You my know every craft 'rule' and phrase ever conceived of, but that doesn't mean you can implement them. But why?

Experience. That's what it comes down to. Like every profession, every talent, every aspiration there is more to it than just doing. You have to learn your craft, and you can't just go in knowing everything.  Authors are invaluable tools that should never be wasted. They can offer an abundance of advice, but I think the strongest words that many authors can give are those that work in the novels they publish themselves.  

Many tools out there can help you when you write, but nothing as much as reading, and dare I say it, borrowing from other authors.  I do not mean stealing. You know that author you really like, that writing style that you really connect with and love to read? Try writing like that, see if your words can flow in the same way his or hers flow with you. What does an author do that really works in their writing? What resounds with you? Can you mimic them? Can you find from their voice your own? The best writing comes from reading, it is just up to the writer to take the time to do it. So next time you're really itching to write but find yourself unable to, instead of trying to force it or picking up one of the hundreds of self-help writing guides (unless that's what you are craving) pick up that favorite novel of yours and read it, and think to yourself, 'What do I love about this book? What is the author doing here that works? Why does it work? And if it works for me, does it work for others?'

But never overwhelm yourself, that is key.  Don't force yourself to write in a way you can't, but never forget the importance of stepping away from your keyboard and turning the pages. Because you gained your desire to write from somewhere, from someone else's work. I believe it's important to rediscover that every now and then. 

And who knows, in the future, you may be that inspiration to a aspiring author!


  1. Wonderfully put! ^_^ Nothing is as inspiring and exciting as cracking open an old favorite or a new paperback and taking a journey. That's how we learn and how we become better writers and this is a point that cannot be stressed enough!

  2. I am a firm believer in this. I read various genres and various authors. I like to see how certain authors structure their stories, and see how they use their characters. I have always wondered about people that say that they don't read, but they want to write. I know of one person who wanted to write an elaborate story, but he only listened to books on tape. While there is nothing wrong with books on tape, you don't get a feel for the book - you can't see how they author put the story together. I like reading along and getting that A-HA moment when everything connects.

    Through reading the works of others a writer begins to find their own way of telling a story. I remember one day in my Character and Narration class at CMU we were discussing who we thought the people in our class wrote like. There were several various popular authors mentions for people, one was compared to Grisham because of his use of lawyers and developing a story about judiciary intrigue. The professor was trying to figure out, quote: "Who was weird like me." I was compared to two different authors - Salinger and Vonnegut - which is amazing. But I'm not locked into just that style. I write mainly urban fantasy these days, and so I read a lot in that area. I would like to be compared to an author like Kim Harrison - an author I love - someday.

    1. I have gone the books on tape route when I worked at the post office doing data entry and I felt that I got the story and got enjoyment but, it's like you said, seeing how it falls on the page is what tends to really stick with us and help to hone our skills in making pretty sentences that connect and interweave to create stories of our own. There is just something so satisfying in seeing it. Satisfying and necessary for those who ever wish to glorify the art of writing.

  3. Oh yes! I feel like I even write better if I have been reading something and sometimes depending on what I have read, or rather who I have read, I sometimes even adapt to their style.