Thursday, September 22, 2016

Don't Forget To Read

We all get caught up in our lives.  There are bills to be paid, kids to go to sports, decks to be fixed, etc.  This can leave us all hardly any time for our true passion of writing.  Therefore, when we get a free minute, our tendency as writers is to sit at the keyboard and start cranking away on our work.  But have we forgotten something?  Have we forgotten that to write, we need to read?

“Wait!”  you shout.  “How am I supposed to read when I have dinner on the stove, baths to give, grass to mow, and drinks to drink with co-workers?”  Yep, life can be hectic, but if we don’t read well, our writing will suffer.

Good reading is a cornerstone of good writing.  You can observe techniques and tricks for writing that other authors use, and you can either figure out they don’t work or that they might be useful to you.  Further, you maintain a sense of literary awareness by reading good stories written by successful authors.  I liken it to playing chess or basketball – you may still remember the fundamentals, but the absence of actually participating will dull your skills and reduce your muscle memory.

Don’t forget that you can learn as much from poor writers as you can from good ones.  No, I don’t stay with a novel that makes me want to claw my eyes out, but it reminds me stuff not to include in my writing:  don’t overdo the very bad poorly horrible adjectives and adverbs that announce in BREATHLESS! and over-the-top ways the action; don’t have character conversations that sound like two teenage girls on Facebook; description is fine, but make sure it sets the stage rather than is the stage; stop with all the damn clichés(if I read another crime drama that starts with the main character squinting into the sun after a drunken night, I think they can write their next novel about me because my rage will become murderous).

Reading is essential to good writing.  Just as an NFL quarterback can’t be great on the field without studying tape, writers can’t be great in writing without reading.  Besides which, it’s a fun break away from the tedium of life, and it helps remind us why we got into this aggravating fantasy to begin with.

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