Friday, January 1, 2010

Reading in the New Year

Post By NCW Member Joannah Merriman

Kerrie Flanagan of Northern Colorado Writers reminds us how important reading is to our writing enhancement:

"As writers, we should all be reading as much as we can. Stephen King in his memoir On Writing says, 'Constant reading will pull you into a place where you can write eagerly and without self-consciousness. It also offers you a constantly growing knowledge of what has been done and what hasn't, what is trite and what is fresh, what works and what just lies there dying (or dead) on the page. The more you read, the less apt you are to make a fool of yourself with your pen or word processor.'"

This is the third version of excellent advice I've received in the last few weeks, and it is a lesson my own father taught me when I was very small, learning to read at age 4 (minus the reference to the word processor!).

Some writers think that if they read more in their own writing category, that somehow they will lose their own voices and adopt the voice of the author whose books they are reading. In my experience, the more I read memoir, for example, the better sense I have of the options out there for the memoir form, the ways in which one person's style of telling the story of his or her life makes me want to read more rather than put the book down, etc. This is not to suggest that it is helpful to read only one author and his 20 books before you embark on your own writing journey.

But words enrich us, good reading evokes a better sense of what good writing is all about. If you want to write the next literary masterpiece, don't fill your shelves with grocery store romances. However, if you DO want to leap into a mainstream genre for fun, by all means, read many samples of that genre so you know what the "rules" are. Some genres, like romance novels, DO have a formula, and you can attend conferences to learn that formula. But there is no lock-step formula for literary writing, except to read books by excellent authors!

The new year is here. What are your writing goals? Whether it is to begin a journal for yourself or a specific project, or whether it is to get that novel draft in shape, reading and writing on a regular basis are essential for your success. Curl up in a corner and let yourself be immersed in the words of a compelling writer.

Joannah Merriman, M.A./Lifeprints


Jane Kennedy Sutton said...

I hope to make more time for reading, not only because it does help with writing but because I simply love to read. I also hope to complete my latest WIP.

Happy New Year!

Michelle Mach said...

What you said about reading the same form you want to write is working for me. I'm currently reading short mystery anthologies (there are several good ones from Mystery Writers of America) and I'm astonished (and inspired) by them.

coffeelvnmom said...

I've found that advice to be completely correct - the more I read, the better a handle I get on my own voice! It's inspiring!

Patricia Stoltey said...

Good points, Kerrie. Since I'm close to finishing the first draft of a suspense novel, I've been reading in that genre in preparation for my revisions. Seems like a perfect time. I'm now reading Harlan Coben because his work always keeps me turning the pages.

Sarah Allen said...

Great post! I too need to do some more useful reading. Thanks for the reminder!

Sarah Allen
(my creative writing blog)

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