I think all of us on this blog love to read. I’ve often heard people say, “I absolutely love to read, but I just don’t have time.” WHAT?
Even if you read while in line at a restaurant . . . or a page every night before bed… you will finish reading a book. When I had three jobs and kids to handle . . . I still ‘found’ time to write.
1. Reading Nourishes Your Writing – I don’t think I’d have written a single book if I hadn’t been a reader. There were times while reading I’d tell myself, “Now why didn’t author do this or that.” Or I’d ask, “Really?” to the ending.” Now it’s a given, if I’m writing Native American – be sure I’m reading my favorite Indian historical or documents on Native Americans. I go as far as to watch movies and documentaries about the genre’ I’m writing. Same goes for when I’m writing suspense; I’m reading suspense books, I’m watching suspense movies, and I read books on killers and why they kill. You get my point.
I also find reading novels and documentaries inspire my creativity. I have more ideas come to me when I’m reading historical facts than any other place. When does inspiration strike you? Once you figure that out – there is an endless source of book fodder for you to cultivate!
Reading opens a world of new styles of writing, and although one wouldn’t ‘copy’ another author’s ‘style’ it will inspire you to ‘create’ your own style with the information.
I recently read an article where an author said, “You should read something from every genre to endure you haven’t missed a tool from another novel style.” That’s great advice – one I’m going to implement for sure.
2. Reading Builds Confidence – When I first started writing – I studied my favorite author’s style; was pacing even and pulling me through the book? Did characterization make me fall in love with the hero/heroine and hate the protagonist? Was setting written so I felt I was right there with the characters? Did the plot make me turn those pages? etc. NO, I didn’t copy the writing, but I learned a lot from writers such as Stella Cameron, Roseanne Bittner, and Dee Brown. I knew there were great writers right in Montana; such as Kat Martin and BJ Daniels, whom I might add were great inspiration to me when I first started writing, and still are.
A spanking new author carries so many insecurities, that it’s frightening to share even one sentence – for fear of it being torn apart. The thought of sharing a completed manuscript with friend or stranger is scary enough to send you hysterically running into a closet, slamming the door, trembling – manuscript gripped tightly in-hand.
Once I got over the fear of having my manuscript critiqued, then came the heart-pounding fear of reading what was said about my ‘baby.’ I have to be honest here; the first critique I received was from a contest. The person who marked in red all over my manuscript was not kind. She was honest – brutally so – and not concerned with my feelings. She said, “Learn to write before wasting time creating such a disaster.” I was devastated! I was going to throw my Selectric IBM typewriter out my front bay window. I cried for days. I ranted and raved to my friends. I secretly called the author (whom I truly admired and liked – until the critique) just about every name I had in my ‘bad name’ arsenal (I’m not much for swearing – so there weren’t many … but I was angry and hurt!).
Two weeks (or more) later, I decided I should read through the comments – just in case one or two of them made sense, and perhaps I could learn from them. With a new attitude about reading those comments, I found there were a lot of them I could learn from.
I went through the entire manuscript and rewrote … rewrote… and rewrote. I asked this ‘author/critique guru’ if she was willing to review it again – and see if it was better. She suggested I learn on my own.
Hmmmm that was not a good beginning. So I got angry and when I get angry – I get determined and stubborn! That was good for me. I started reading ‘how to’ books, and from there I pushed myself to apply what I learned into book after book.
Then I stopped. I could read and re-write until I’m blue in the face. What I needed to do was WRITE. From that point on I started my writing career and wrote Whispering Sun, my first Indian historical romance. It has been re-issued by Books We Love this year and is now available in eBook and print. Ask me how proud of that novel I am!
3. Reading Enables Revision – My point here is that after years of confusion and frustration, what I learned is there is a time when you just need to write and learn how to improve each novel as you go. I believe it’s important to study books you totally enjoy and become a better writer for it by learning what worked in someone else’s writing. That helps you become a better writer in your own work.
When I find things that don’t work in a book I’m reading, I learn it won’t work in my writing either. You want honest feedback? This can only happen when you’re ‘honest’ with yourself. Evaluate your work as though it were someone else’s work. You’d be surprised how many things glare back at you then.
What this consequently does for you is builds confidence and helps you improve the quality of your writing. Good writers are always learning and improving their craft. You need to be a ruthless editor of your own work. You are only as good as your next novel.
4. Reading Helps You Sell – This is one added plus to being well read. If you are discussing your work with other writers, authors, or even editors, you will be prepared if they ask, “Where do your books fit in today’s market?” You will know, with confidence, where to pitch your work and how it will fit into the universe of existing books..
My advice is to never stop reading . . . always find time to read if you love to read. Life is too short not to be enjoying a good book. It’s my goal to read a book every week. When I was so busy I didn’t have time to think – my goal was to read at least one book a month. I couldn’t bring myself to stop reading.
My ultimate goal is to have readers out there wanting to ‘fit my book’ into their busy schedule. I want to be the author of the book . . . that took them away from it all.