Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Reading is as Writing Does

To be a great writer, you must read.

Seems simple, doesn't it?

Most writers fall in love with books long before they decide to become writers. So reading should be as easy as breathing.

Just as a writer should write every day so should they read every day.

Five Reasons to Read Every Day

1. You can claim the cost of books and magazines as a business expense. So save your receipts every time you visit the bookstore (or buy a book online) and then claim them as supplies costs on your tax return.

2. Studying how the pros write will help you to improve your own writing. So read in every genre: Literature, Science Fiction, Fantasy, Horror, Mystery, Thrillers, Chick Lit, Romance, Historical, even Non-Fiction. But don't spend all of your time reading Non-Fiction, because then people will accuse you of being a research whore, and you won't necessarily absorb concepts on style, characterization, and theme.

When you read, keep a pencil nearby. If you like the way a writer coins a phrase, or introduces a character, or jacks up the tension then make a note in the margin and then note the page number on the first page so you can find the reference quickly later.

Now don't scold me for writing in a book. I know you're all freaking out right now about marking up your favourite book. If you use a pencil, you can always erase it later. And if that still upsets you, then keep a journal where you store "book tidbits". Make sure you note the edition you're referencing, so you won't waste time looking through the wrong version of the book. In this day of ebooks, the "book tidbit" journal might be the only way to track these gems.

You'll find more information on "what to look for while reading" in my post Living in the Shrubs.

3. A little professional jealousy is a great motivator. I try to read much of what my friends and colleagues are writing. Not only to support their career, but also to find out what they're up to. You may develop a nemesis (or three), but every time they are deluged with praises, say to yourself, "I can do that." Of course, you are still required to put in the work to write, there's nothing to be gained from jealousy that isn't used for productive purposes.

By the way, no, I will not divulge my own nemeses. But if you buy me a drink at the bar at the next convention, who knows what you'll find out! And yes, that's one of the many reasons why the bar is so busy at a writers' convention.

4. A great book will help you to remember why you chose this tedious, soul-sucking job as a profession in the first place. Many of the novels I read are research into what's current in the market, or chosen because I want to learn a specific technique, etc. That type of reading takes a certain level of concentration. But treating yourself to a great book for pure pleasure is at least as important as treating yourself to chocolate, or exercise, or other pleasurable activities.

No, I won't list alternate pleasurable activities here. That sort of naughty belongs in my novels, not my posts on writing. Why do you think romance novels are so popular?

But I will admit that right now, I'm about halfway through reading (among other books) "The Sisters Brothers" by Patrick DeWitt and it's fantastic (so far).

5. Books belong in a writer's life. Reading is a cultural activity, even though it's also a bit of a loner activity. Because once we've read a book, then we can talk about it, blog about it, brag about it (or ridicule it), all in the name of spreading the word to the world at large that reading is an important activity in life.

When you model reading to children and adults, you are essentially planting the seeds for the harvest of your fan base, as well as educating the masses to be responsible citizens in a democracy.

So read a book today. Okay, maybe not the whole book, because we are all busy people. But even if it's only one hundred words, those thoughts will get gears-a-turnin' in your brain and you'll be more inspired to get your butt-in-chair and write.

Do it now
If you don't have a book (or five) on the go, pick one to read the next time you have five minutes. That means don't play on your phone, read instead. There's an app for that!

Do a quick online search at Amazon or Chapters or wherever you buy your books and choose a "hot pick" that's outside your usual reading-comfort-range.

Read that story a friend wrote that's in the anthology/collection you bought to support their writing that you haven't gotten around to reading yet because you're always so busy.

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