Monday, March 12, 2007

Writers, Read !

Writers, Read !

There seem to me to be an awful lot of aspiring writers who don’t read; or they don’t read much. It is beyond me how they think they will ever become a good writer when they don’t crack a book. Oh most of them have read in their lifetime; in school, as young people, as young adults, and they still read the occasional novel, but they think they have read all they really need to. They get it. They always wanted to be a writer and now that they have read all of Tom Clancy, they can write the next Great American Novel. Sorry to burst your bubble but it won’t happen. The one thing all good writers have in common is they read, and most of them, more than they write.

That is not to say that you can’t get your novel published. There are small publishing houses all over the world who make a living, albeit a small one, publishing mediocre writers. The writer assumes that if they can just get their book on a shelf somewhere, people will begin to read it. They will tell other readers how great the book is and before you know it, they have sold hundreds of thousands of books. I don’t want to make you mad, but if your writing is mediocre, people won’t mention the book. Other than to say it wasn’t well written.

If mediocre is all you’re working toward, then write on. However, if you want to be a good writer, then you need to start reading my friends. Stephen King says it best, "Reading is the creative center of a writers life." How, on earth will we know if we are good or bad, if we don’t compare our work to those who are both good and bad. I’ve read writers and thought, "Dang, I can do better than that. I am doing better than that." How will we know if we don’t read?

This second quote is part of SK’s theses and whether you are an SK fan or not, and I’m not really, the man has sold more books than I ever will. So it behooves me to listen.

"While it is impossible to make a competent writer out of a bad writer, and while it is equally impossible to make a great writer out of a good one, it is possible to make a good writer out of a merely competent one." Stephen King "On Writing" pg.136 par. 2.

I am a competent writer. If I will work hard, listen to those who know and learn from them, I may someday become a good writer. A great one? No. I am no Faulkner, or Shakespeare or Steinbeck. These folk are genius, and I sure ain’t one of them. Nevertheless, I can be good and I know I can. I read the good stuff and know that if I keep writing and reading I can attain the level of readership those writers have.

One more point and I’m done. I think it is audacious for a writer, who won’t spend money on someone else’s book to expect that anyone ought to lay down cash for theirs. Who do we think we are? Will I buy a book I don’t think is worth the money, one I’m not going to read? No; however, I do buy those written by good, hardworking, know their craft writers. You should too.

Reading and writing go hand in hand. If you don’t do the one, you won’t be very good at the other.



Jean said...

I agree. Reading is very important to a writer. It lets us see how others are writing and we can learn from that.

I've also heard that agents will sometimes ask what a person is reading in pitch sessions.

Now I will admit, while playing with my dragons I won't read another dragon book and so on. But I still read stuff all the time.

Another good reminder:--)

Cheryl said...

Oh no, heavy handed, kick your butt in gear blog entries on a Monday morning. Say it isn't so. LOL!

Seriously, this is a great post Gwanny. Why do you think I added reading back into my list of goals. Here I am a writer of non-fiction, trying to write fiction, succeeding mildly and struggling tremendously.

While Laura Ingalls Wilder is probably not the fiction I should be reading if I want to write romance novels or sequels to my completed novel "The Sisterhood", it sure beats nothing, and I figure if I can start off with something I really enjoy like one of Wilder's books, then I can spread my wings out a bit and read more fiction, so that I can become better at fiction writing too.


Snow said...

Your right Gwanny, We should be reading more.

I'm a Stephen King, Lisa Jackson, and Amanda Ashely fan. As much as I'd like to write the way they do I can't. But I never give up on reading thier books or Trying to write. When I can't make my dreams work a story for me I read one of their books, get ideas.

The reading triggers something in my brain, Making ideas light up like Christmas lights.

Great blog. Great reminder. Keep up the great work.


Anonymous said...

Amen, honey...that's what I say! I am always so happy when I give myself permission to read instead of constantly writing. I look on it as research now, so no more guilt!


Laura said...

You are so right. We grow by reading.

Just this weekend I finished a book titled 'Dicey's Song' and I said to my husband "This is how I want to write. This is what I'm striving for."

Per your recommendation I am reading Stephen King's book on writing. I'm not a fan of his genre but he is an awesome writer and his advise is solid.

Great advice