Tuesday, August 9, 2011

You Can't Write if You don't Read.

"If you don't have time to read, you don't have the time (or the tools) to write. Simple as that."



— Stephen King

This is such simple advice, but really, really important.

By exposing yourself to stories- all kinds of stories, from all kinds of voices, you learn. You learn what works, you learn what doesn't.

Once you take up a pen and start trying to do this for yourself, you start reading differently too. It may be a conscious thing, that you start out with a notepad handy when you read, or at the least, a highlighter (though the local library frowns on that sort of thing.) 

Regardless - if you write, and keep writing, and then write some more, you can't help but start to notice things. Things that just start to hit you, like "Ah - that was a neat transition into the scene," or "Oh - so that's how he manages to get his two main characters alone in the restaurant."

"It was the best of....zzzzzzzzzzz"
If you're not "studying" what you read, you should at least try to remain open to these "aha" moments. And honestly, when we read for pleasure, can we ever really keep up a serious focus on it? That's why most of us (well...ok... me) wouldn't touch half the books I was supposed to read in High School, but have since rediscovered, and fallen in love with them. If you have some of those in your past, do yourself a favour and pick them up. Those books are a double benefit, in that they're usually really good to read, and they've often got treasures of writing to teach you. Example - I was supposed to read "The Sun Also Rises," in Grade 11, and never touched it. Now - I've discovered the elegant, stripped power of Hemingway's storytelling. I now count "The Old Man and the Sea" among my top ten favourite stories. This style is not the right tool for the job all the time, but when it works. Wow.

"And the killer is... skipskipskipskipskip"
So - read. I've usually got three or so books on the go - two at home, and one in the car. During my commute, (which totals about an hour each day), I listen to audiobooks from the Library. I've discovered this is a fantastic way to catch up on "classics", and sometimes, hearing the language performed can help you penetrate some of the dense text. Moby Dick? Loved it. It took three weeks to listen to the whole thing, but I "get" it now.

Lecture's over now. Here's some parting goodies:

If you haven't joined "Goodreads", give it a look. It's very much like Facebook, but focused on books. You can catalogue and rate what you've read - and that's just for starters. You can recommend books to your friends, and get the same back. (Look me up if/when you get there!)

Finally - my most recent read was a great one. I've been meaning to get my hands on one of Matt Hilton's  books since I first became acquainted with him through Thrillers, Killers, n' Chillers. This week, I finished Judgement and Wrath, which is the second in the Joe Hunter series. I've always been a horror/fantasy type of reader, but after reading this one, I'll be getting my hands on the rest pretty quick. It's some of the cleanest, most fast-paced action that I've read in a long time. (You can read the rest of my review... on Goodreads) If you're unfamiliar with Matt, check out his site, and say hello! He's got the latest book in his series coming out soon, so now's the time to catch up on the rest!

***UPDATE***

Just got word that a new story of mine, "To Play with Fire" is now live on MicroHorror. I went a little outside my comfort zone on this one, and didn't shy away from the heat. (Alright - full disclosure - it's full of sex.) Check it out if you have a moment.

Keep @ 'er

C

3 comments:

  1. I have to read too? Just great...

    A classic that I'm going to read next is William Faulkner's 'The Sound and the Fury.'

    Hey, is that a pic of you in a little road rage? ; )

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  2. Thanks Erin -

    I'll put that one on the list - I'm seeing what "The Fellowship of the Ring" sounds like right now.

    (And no, that's not me - but I can sympathize with the expression, after getting to disc 14 of 14 in the Dark Tower VII, and finding three chapters unreadable)

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  3. True words and some very good advice. I'm reading All Quiet on the Western Front right now. Not a book I did in school, but one my daughter studied this past year. You're right about books like this being much more enjoyable when you can see the writer's intentions.

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