Wednesday, March 23, 2016

When Writers Read

Writers are doubly blessed if they're also readers. I have always urged writers to be voracious readers as well as pursuing writing projects. Each one benefits the other. 

When writers read, they subconsciously are learning more about writing. And, when I read a book, I am sometimes stopped by a particularly nice bit of prose. You know the kind, the poetic phrases that are so visual and appeal to all your senses. I know that I absorb the many ways to use dialogue, the pace of the story, the plot itself, characterization and more. Does it lessen the enjoyment I get out of reading the book? Not at all. As I said, much of the learning is subconscious. 

The mind stores those little lessons and lets them surface when we are writing our own stories. The one thing we don't want to imitate is another writer's style. That is something that is individual and should be. I don't want to sound like you wrote my story, and you don't want to sound like I wrote yours. In that, we must each maintain our unique style or voice. If you have a favorite author, maybe the stories he/she writes is only part of the reason you try to read all the books that person wrote. You may respond positively to the way the books are written. 

The poster above made me smile but it has a certain amount of truth to it. Given a choice of housework or reading a book, I have no doubt which I'd choose. Right now, I'm deep into a WWII novel that has me wanting to put off mundane household tasks and keep reading. The book is Letters to the Lost by Ilona Grey. I remember long ago that I was near the end of a Louis L'amour novel that had me captivated. I stood at the stove stirring pudding with a wooden spoon in my right hand and the book in my right. I don't remember which I finished first--the book or the pudding. I am a serious reader, as you have probably figured out long ago. 

It was reading so many books in my growing up years and beyond that gave me the desire to also be a writer. There is one problem being both writer and reader. My reading time is considerably less than before I started writing. Thus, I treasure my reading moments. I am a fast reader and that's probably a good thing since I try to squeeze both writing and reading into my life. Housework gets done but I don't devote any more time to it than is absolutely necessary. 

One negative aspect of a writer also being an avid reader is that I also mentally edit or critique as I read. We aren't always going to find everything 100% positive when we read someone else's work. I note poor word choices, awkward sentences, incorrect capitalization or punctuation and just plain boring sections. Can't help it. I do it all the time but, if the story is good, I can get past the mechanical problems. Am I going to write the author a letter and point out all the things I found that bothered me? Of course not. But once again, I may file them away in my subconscious and try not to repeat same in my own writing. Of course, I will not succeed all of the time but even if I do so some of the time, it's a benefit. 

How about you? Do you think about the writing part of a novel when you read it or do you just simply enjoy the story and forget the rest? I'd love to know how other writers read. 

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