by Annette Lyon
You've heard it many times before, but that doesn't make it any less true:
Good writers read.
But here's the additional bit that not everyone tells you:
Good writers read LIKE writers.
That means reading while wearing the writer hat in addition to reading for pure enjoyment. (But face it; once you start writing seriously, it's hard to read anything without that hat on.)
I know that after I read certain writers, the dialogue in my current project suddenly becomes snappier, more alive.
If I spend a little time with another writer, my descriptions get more vivid.
Reading yet another might provide a eureka moment where I figure out a plot problem.
And then there's one more writer who I'll read, getting immersed in his strong verbs and his amazing ways of showing a rainbow of emotions and gestures.
Of course, every year I try new writers, and in those cases I let myself enjoy a new voice. I watch how he or she structures scenes and pay close attention to how they open the book on the very first page, begin (and end) every chapter.
And on occasion, I'll open up a really bad book . . . and learn by painful example what not to do.
Writers can learn something about the writing craft by reading (and paying attention to) almost any book, whether that lesson is on pacing, voice, plotting, characterization, or a dozen other things.
Make a goal to never be without at least one book underway at all times. (I have more than I want to admit to going at once. I'm not sure if that's a good thing: the book I'm listening to on my iPod, the one I read to the kids at night, the one my husband and I read together, the one in the car, the one for research. And that's not counting the couple of novels on my desk . . .)
Read. A lot. Consider it the crux of your continuing education.
Because it is.