Writing Tip No. 1: Read

March 15, 2011

 I used to thinking writing was enough. Heck, characters popped into my head and chattered until I couldn’t hear the real people around me.  How could I not be destined for a bestseller list?

Write them down. Get them out. Marvel at the world you created with their help.

While my mantra inspired me, and the results entertained me and served as a welcomed retreat from the structured non-fiction writing I engaged in during the day, I wasn’t destined for publication. I couldn’t even finish a book. I didn’t know what a finished book sounded like. I knew good parts. When I read good parts in my work in progress (WIP), I tingled. What I didn’t realize was that no matter how much tingling I did, a few good parts would never make a whole.

I can’t recall the moment I realized all those good parts had to connect and travel in the same direction to a sensible, satisfying end. I imagine the revelation was like the coming of spring—one day I open my eyes and somehow the trees green, the flowers bloom and the birds sing, but really, all of that wonderful newness was in the works for weeks, and I simply didn’t notice.

At some point, I started reading on a regular basis—for entertainment. But I quickly realized reading boosted the value of my writing.

I read almost obsessively now. I owe thanks to a mind shift that recognized if I have the time to watch television, I have the time to read. (I still watch TV, but I’m picky: Parenthood, Modern Family and Glee—the only shows I watch without a book in my lap. American Idol and NFL football games—I read during the commercials and other slow points.) But I also owe thanks to my iPad. (Hallelujah! Those are angels singing.) I read multiple books a week, because it’s just so easy with e-readers. (I’ll save my love affair with e-books for a later post.)

The more I read, the more I hear the sound of a finished book in my head, and believe me, there is a sound—a  flow, a rhythm. The more I read, the more I hear the rough spots in my own work. I also find that reading is the best way to break through a bought of writer’s frustration. (I have this more than I have writer’s block. With me, something is always coming out, but I often hate the results.)

What am I reading this week?

In Good Hands by Kathy Lyon (finished last night)

The Perfect Play by Jaci Burton (started, but got sidetracked when Harlequin’s March Blazes arrived)

Call Me Irresistible by Susan Elizabeth Phillips

What are you reading? And do you find reading helps your writing?

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3 Responses to “Writing Tip No. 1: Read”

  1. taristhread Says:

    I agree!! Reading helps my writing so much! It helps me to feel the order and flow of a good book.

    My recent reads have been:

    Switch-by Megan Hart (love her seductive writing style)

    Bound By Temptation-Lavinia Kent

    Desires of a Perfect Lady-Victoria Alexander

    I’m currently reading
    Agent Provocateur, Secrets- a collection of erotic short stories, I’ve been reading them to my hubby at night.

    I need to restock my books with some new material!

  2. Cynthia Says:

    I say it all the time, that I write better when I’m reading a good book. I find John Sandford’s Prey novels and Faye Kellerman inspire me most. They both have a rhythm that suits the way I like to write.

    When I’m stuck for an opening, I always go back to a Sandford novel that had the best opening I’d ever read (and of course, I can’t remember exactly which book) but it involved the line “the man who would kill so and so” watched her walk through the mall, or something to that effect.

    Reading that, you assume the “killer” is a bad man, the villain of the piece, but actually, she’s a bank robber and he’s the cop who ends up shooting her in the line of duty.

    The first paragraph works because it challenges everything you assume when you start reading a novel. Great stuff.

    • taristhread Says:

      Cynthia, that is one of the reasons I love Megan Harts book Switch, and ordered another of her books. The first line in Switch is “Sometimes you look back.” I love the line, and the opening of the book. She also ties it all together at the end, coming back to her opening, one of my favorite non-fiction writing techniques. I think I find that first line very seductive, and so is the rest of her writing. I also find it inspirational for my own writing.

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