What has reading taught you about writing?

Jul 28, 2011

So I've always been a huge reader. Like, ALWAYS. When I was about six, I was desperate for "chapter books," so my mom took me to the bookstore. She picked out an early-reader book for me, the kind with about twenty words per page. I picked out a YA book called Megan's Ghost. She didn't think I'd be able to handle it, but I was determined it was what I wanted. I devoured it in a few days. In fact, I read so much as a kid, my parents had to actually cut my reading time short and make me play outside.

My love of reading is what gave me a love of writing. My first stories were mostly copies of whatever I was reading at the time. You've got to start somewhere, right? Katrina Lantz recently did a post on the importance of reading for writers. And it is SO IMPORTANT. In reading so many books, I absorbed most of my early writing knowledge without ever cracking a book on craft. Reading so much gave me an instinct for some of the smaller things like grammar, and even some of the bigger things like plot structure. Sometimes, I'll re-read my favorite books on purpose with an eye toward improving things like my own character development.

That's not to say you don't want to study craft. But reading is not only good for learning story craft. It's also one of the best ways I've found to get creative. Reading opens your imagination to a new world, and while your imagination is open, it's more receptive to knew ideas. When I'm not entirely sure what the plot of my Shiny New Idea is going to be, or when I'm stuck on revisions, I read.

So, my friends, what is one of your recent favorite reads? (I loved Divergent by Veronica Roth.) What has reading taught you about writing?

24 comments:

David Powers King said...

I know I could read more than I do, but I try to avoid reading while in the heart of drafting. There's an unnatural tendency of mine to absorb an author's style and abandon my voice.

Goosebumps got me started on wanting to read.

My last read was The Scorch Trails. Excellent insight for writing a good sequel. I also have The Forgotten Locket. It's just sitting there, waiting for me to get these edits done. Great post, Shallee!

Abby said...

You always have the best posts. I love all the information and inspiration. I have been a huge reader since I was young too, but I think you've got me beat! I love the story of you devouring that big book at such a young age. That totally rocks.

Jenilyn Tolley said...

I enjoyed Divergent as well and Everneath was awesome. I just read The Demon's Surrender by Sarah Rees Brennan which finished up her trilogy. There are so many things I love about that series.

Lenore Appelhans said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Lenore Appelhans said...

OMG - reading has taught me almost everything I know about writing. I wouldn't be where I am today if I hadn't have read so much!!

Caitlin Vincent said...

Impossible by Nancy Werlin is one book that I recently read and fell in love with.

I've been reading for as along as I can remember. I grew up on G.A. Henty's historical fiction novels. I started writing during middle school and kept on through high school. I didn't start stuyding craft until after I graduated. All that reading gave me an ear for a good story though; for pace and character and setting.

Great post, by the way :)

Amanda said...

I read "Annabel", by Kathleen Winter, about a month ago, and I came away from it feeling like it had spoiled me for other books. Everything about it -- the language, the structure, the morals -- resonated deep inside of me. I literally wanted to push it into the hands of unsuspecting people on the street. (Luckily for me, and perhaps unluckily for them, I did not.)

I remember being about eight years old and making my way through a bunch of Sweet Valley High novels. My mum caught on, eventually, and took them away, and it wasn't until years later that I realized she'd done it because she thought they were trash. Ha! As it turned out, she was right. :)

Tony Van Helsing said...

My favourite recent read was The Old Man and the Sea by Ernest Hemingway, I think I read it in three days.It was fairly short but totally absorbing.

Jolene Perry said...

I critique for a couple of FABULOUS published and agented writers. I've learned SO SO Much from ready what they've written.

I find that I learn more about story crafting in books that seems simple - The Unwritten Rule - total page turner, even though the premise was fairly simple.

Looking For Alaska- AMAZING READ. OCKLER - I want to write like her.
Jandy Nelson - The SKy is Everywhere will always be on my favorites list.

All of these books have a very simple premise, yet I couldn't put them down. I understand the page turning factor when life or well-being is on the line, but when it's something much simpler, I think it's a gift to keep people frantic until the end.

Lynda R Young said...

Yep, I enjoyed Divergent too. It's nice and pacey. Reading has expanded my vocab, taught me about pacing, the importance of conflict and correct continuity. It's opened my mind to a whole lot of possibilities. I love reading!

Emy Shin said...

The most important thing I extract from reading is the desire to write. Most of my inspirations come from reading great novels. I don't think I could continue to write without reading. Eventually, my creative well would drain dry. :)

And, of course, by reading, you're subconsciously learning the craft of writing. Personally, I am often too immersed in a story to really learn how to write from reading. However, I do learn from reading what I enjoy and what I don't, and that helps me craft my own story.

Katie Dodge said...

I'm a major believer in reading making you a better writer. And I just finished The Glass Castle. WOW! It was so so good. :)

KarenG said...

I can't imagine a writer not also loving to read! It's like a musician who doesn't like to listen to music LOL. Lately I've been enjoying the Sue Grafton alphabet mystery series.

mshatch said...

I just read Thirteen Reasons Why, which I loved, and Uglies, which reminded me that sometimes it's good when a character does something surprising, something unexpected.

Janet Johnson said...

I was an early reader like you . . . though I read "The Rats of NIMH" and the like. :)

Recent favorite . . . My Unfair Godmother by Janette Rallison. She is so funny. She makes me wish I had thought of the idea first. But she's really good at blending the outer and inner struggle. I've learned a lot from her.

P.S. Super cute new picture. I love your hair!

Lisa Gail Green said...

Okay, seriously? LOL You know I think we WOULD have been friends as kids. I remember going to the bookstore in 1st grade w/my dad and picking out a novel (YA) and the lady not believing I could read it, so she opened to a random page and had me read out loud right there. I went home with that book and devoured it. The first of many. :D

Shallee said...

Ha, Lisa, we totally would have been friends! Good thing we can be bloggy friends now. :)

Ruth Josse said...

I love how you said reading instills instinct for the craft of writing. I truly believe that. When I read, I am a better writer. I feel inspired and feel I can see the story in a way that helps me find ways to improve.

Jessie Humphries said...

I totally agree that reading is a great education on the craft of writing. I also loved Divergent. Another book I use like a manual is Matched. It is so lyrical and poetic, and I try to steal some of that mojo from it.

Madeleine said...

Oh I have fav authors like Andrea Levy. I also got into some YA Sci Fi by Patrick Ness that was edge of the Seat stuff called The Chaos Walking trilogy. I read now more than I ever did and I really think it is maturing my own writing mind. Great post :O)

Donna K. Weaver said...

More than I ever realized. But I think it's funny, as I'm learning how to do it myself, how often I get zinged in critiques for writing like my favorite authors. =D

Lindsay N. Currie said...

LOL love this post. My recent fave read was Name of the WInd by Patrick Rothfuss. It takes a lot to draw me out of YA these days and he did it:)

Angie Cothran said...

I think this is a universal truth - All writers should be readers. I agree with you 100%. I don't know how you could write without reading.

A.L. Sonnichsen said...

Great points. I like what you said about how reading gives you insights into the subtleties of grammar and plot. So true!

I haven't really been wowed by anything I've read recently (although I did love Caroline Starr Rose's MAY B, but that was a few books ago). I'm kind of in the reading doldrums. I find that great books usually come in waves for me. I'll read like three or four in a row and feel like a glutton. Then I'll read some others I'm not too crazy about. I'm ready to find some more to love! :)

Amy

 
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