The Joys of Reading As a Writer

Remember when I said I was going to post a blog post every day? That didn’t last long. But anyway! School’s starting up again and I’ll be on a more organized schedule, so as long as I make it part of my schedule, this will happen!

Today’s topics? Books. As a writer. Not as a reader, because we all know how absolutely fabulous books are as a reader.

As a writer, books are the single most important thing to learn from. It is the craft in finished form, written and (hopefully) edited to a state which others will read. Books dictate what our language says, how it’s presented, what types of stories we love to experience, and what a writer should do in their own telling. People say, and I agree to an extent, that you should write your book how it wants to be told. But there’s a problem with that: a story is meant to be shared. They came originally from campfires, tales of religion, of hunting grounds, of great feats worthy of praise, and to show power. If we cannot share a story with our peers, why tell it?

So there are rules that need to be followed. Rules about language, about pacing, about the development of characters and morals, and the way to learn how to take all of these rules and wrap them into a neat, 300 page bound book is to read the works of the masters before. Writing is a skill that not only takes practice, but studying. Not necessarily reading what writers have to say about their novels and their writing process, but what they’ve put on paper and shown to the world. There’s a reason I tell new writers to read. I have a friend who, at least a few years ago, insisted that because she is a “panster” (a term I have come to dislike over the past few years for reasons I’ll explain in another post), she doesn’t need to read. She writes whatever she wants and doesn’t need the influence of other writers.

The problem? Other writers are not only your peers, but your teachers. You learn how to form a story by reading. You gain insight into pacing, characters, plot, twists, emotion, and style. The more you read, the wider and broader your knowledge becomes, giving you a greater sense of what you as a writer want to sound like. If you only ever read one type of writing style, you won’t learn as much as you could. Your writing suffers and it becomes repetitive.

Artists learn from their masters through many things. Critiques, trial and error, but before any of those, they learn through observation. A writer doesn’t observe by watching the master write. They observe by reading the master’s work. And from there they move on. From there they analyze and write.

Books are the best way to learn, and for me, the best motivator. I read, I see what I do in my writing that I don’t like, or what I want to do, and I practice it. I want to get better.

So my advice to all authors, budding or blossomed? Read everything you can get your hands on.

Writing update:

I haven’t worked on The First Nine recently. My computer had to go to the doctor’s and I kind of lost of the pace I had going. I’ll get back to it. For now I’m focusing on getting my book cover, submitting to agents, and working on publicizing. So, uh, here’s an excerpt from chapter 13:

It was snowing when she walked outside, tiny flakes falling from the sky like shaved ice. A layer of thick grey clouds floating past, their ominous shade reminding her of the coming winter. Soon Willow Creek would be buried, and the next three months would be isolated and frigid. As a child she loved the snow.

Now it was a prison.

Shivering, she briefly considered going back inside to grab a heavier coat, but decided against it when she heard her brother’s voice behind her. Instinct took over, and she snapped the door shut. It wasn’t like it was that cold, and Cody’s house was only a five minute walk. She could deal with a little nip at her skin.

As she walked, rubbing her arms, she glanced around and tried to place what was wrong. It was a nice day. Cloudy, with snow, but not too cold, and the dusting on the ground made everything brighter. And yet, she realized, no one was outside.

Elephant, however, I’ve had a huge breakthrough! Written two full chapters (by hand) this past week and I’ve found a new flow I want for the story. Well, one that’s always been there but I’ve been too afraid to delve into. I’ll post an excerpt next time.

Thanks for reading! Comments are always welcome.


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