Sunday, August 9, 2009

Reading to Improve Your Craft

I've been thinking about doing some things to make my blog more interesting. Plus writing on a more consistent basis. I may plan to slowly increase my posts with a goal of three a week. I can handle three a week. Maybe a short review or thought on whatever I'm reading during the week. And then some other random writing stuff. I wish I had funny experiences to share, but I fear that I am rather boring. But I shouldn't talk about myself that way.

This week I've been thinking a lot about reading, and what makes a book so good that you can't put it down. You know those books. (They're the books I love, the ones that keep you up all night, and make you forget the dishes and your kids--the kind of book I want to write.)

One of my favorite books on writing is On Writing by Stephen King. Awesome book, and I always recommend it to people who want to write. There is a bit of foul language in the book, but I think that is just the way Stephen King writes. I actually have never read his fiction, because I get really bad nightmares from normal books, let alone horror. The stuff always seems too real to me. Rob thinks I'm crazy and has read a lot of Stephen King, and I've thought about reading his fantasy stuff, but just haven't yet.

Anyway the point of that ramble is that in On Writing Stephen King says that one of the most important things a writer can do is read. I happen to agree with him. There is something about reading which allows you to pick up the craft of writing. You know things like rhythm, where you start a story, what to include in the story, the type of language to use, and that intangible quality that really drags a reader in.

I've been a reader since second grade. This year on my personal blog I've listed the new books that I've read this year. I'm up to 68, with the goal being a hundred. I'm not listing the books I've reread though. And I think next year I'll do that, and maybe keep a page count total. Just because I'm curious about it. But since I've read so much, and so widely, I've managed to pick up on things like paragraphs, and pacing (I hope) and other things that help to make the story stronger.

If you want to become a great writer, then you need to read. Just like an artist studies the works of other artists or an architect learns about the structure and designs of other buildings, a writer needs to read other peoples books. Both for enjoyment and for learning about the craft.

For example the first time I read Twilight I read it for enjoyment. Then I read it again to figure out what about it made it so compelling. Then I read it again to really figure that out. Then I read it to understand how she address first person narrative. I learned a lot.

The Hunger Games is another novel I've read multiple times, as well as Catching Fire. Suzanne Collins writes a book that you simply can't put down. It's impossible. I learned something about her chapters. She ends in the middle of the action. Then does scene shifts mid-chapter. I tried doing it. I think it helped me.

What books (fiction) have you learned from? What books do you recommend I read along the lines of The Hunger Games and Twilight for a suck you in read? I need some new books to devour!


L.T. Elliot said...

I'll have to think about books that really suck me in like that and get back to you.
It will be fun to hear from you more often!

Jessie Oliveros said...

I think being a reader is important, too. Unfortunately, I read too much and write less. Maybe I need to read less and write more. I really liked Forest of Hands and Teeth. Couldn't put that one down.

Mim said...

That book really sucked me in, but then I had zombie nightmares for several nights afterwards. I get scary dreams too easily.