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My reading list grows exponentially. Everytime I read a book, it'll mention three other books I feel I have to read. It's like a particularly relentless series of pop-up ads.
-A.J. Jacobs

Monday, July 12, 2010

To Read or To Write?


This conversation has come up a million times since I started really trying to write for a living. I talk to all sorts of people all the way from those who never read while in the midst of a writing project, to those who make reading a part of their daily routine even in the thick of writing their ms.

I find myself somewhere in between. I am a voracious reader. You put a good book in my hands, I will tear through it in no time at all. Sometimes in a few hours. That's how I've always been. I remember reading until midnight (GASP!) underneath my covers with a flashlight when I was in elementary school. All of the classics of course, RL Stine's Fear Street, Sweet Valley High, Babysitter's Club, and all of Roald Dahl's masterpieces.

I've always loved reading, which only makes sense as to why I want to be a writer. But lately I've noticed that the one thing that inspired me to want to be a writer is the one thing that I put on the backburner. I don't have time to read. I have to blog, and procrastinate on Twitter, critique and oh, yeah, write. All of those writerly things that are going to make me a real, live writer one day.

But ironically enough, I've noticed that when I'm not doing much reading, my own words dry up and POOF! they're gone. I mean, it's not rocket science we're talking about here. Besides the fact that you can learn so much from reading a story that you find yourself completely immersed in, as writers, we can see first hand the techniques the author uses that work, what doesn't work well, ways to add more depth to our writing, and so much more.

Funny thing is, I tell my 4th graders all the time, "Good writers read more than they write." Shouldn't this be true. In order to know how to make a YA book have that edge that's going to grab an agent/publisher's attention, we should be constantly reading the latest YA books. In order for me to write a believable MG book, I've got to read first hand what those 9-12 year olds love to read.

There's a hundred reasons why writers don't read as much as we should. There's never enough time. We're constantly worried that we might steal a plot idea, character name, beautiful sentence or idea. We get so caught up in these things that we forget that in order to become a better writer, we should be reading just as much if not more. So, I've decided that even in the thick of trying to get my ms finished, I will make time every day to read a wide range of books.

When I decided to write about this topic I googled: Best advice for writers. This is the first link that popped up.

Leave me a comment and tell me about your reading habits. And just for fun, what's the last book you read? I just finished Linger by Maggie Stiefvater. Brilliant of course.

12 brilliant remarks:

JustineDell said...

The First Five Pages was the last book I finished.

Like you, I've found I have little time to read...which also hampes my creativity. Hmph! It's a fine, tight line that we must walk, you know? I want to read! I want to write! I want to blog! I want to be mother and make sure the kid is fed! LoL. If I only had time for it all. ;-)

~JD

Stina Lindenblatt said...

I have to read (fiction) every day. I can't survive if I don't. Same deal with my writing. I have to write (fiction) every day. No matter how late it is, I have to read at least one chapter before going to bed. Yes, even if it's 11 pm and I'm getting up at 5 am.

Right now with summer vacation, my kids (6 to 10 yo) and I read 30 mins a day. Some think it's so I can instill my love of reading to my kids. Yeah, right. It's so I can get in an extra 30 or so minutes of reading a day. Smart, huh? ;)

Summer said...

I read every day, even if just while I'm at the gym or five minutes before bed. It's one of those things I've done my whole life that I'm not willing to give up for anything.

Last book I finished was Where the Heart Is, by Billie Letts.

Jemi Fraser said...

I don't think I've gone a day without fiction reading since I learned how to read. Even when I'm writing that first draft I need to read. Even in November - which is not only NaNo, but report card season, I have to read. I may not sleep much that month, but I read :)

DL Hammons said...

I usually read when I feel my writing becoming stale, so its sporadic at best. I just finished reading The Passage by Justin Cronin.

Roni @ FictionGroupie said...

How am I not already following your blog? Sorry 'bout that.

Anyway, I'm the same exact way. I put reading on the side and then my creative juices stop flowing. It's just hard to balance everything and not have one thing fall by the wayside. I've promised myself that now that I've finished my rough draft, I'm going to indulge in my enormous TBR pile.

Lia Victoria said...

I love reading. Even when I'm not reading actual books, just the act of actively reading agent blogs, writer blogs (hello, you!) and etc. is helpful. They are a main source of inspiration! :]

Right now I'm trying (somewhat unsuccessfully) to finished Her Fearful Symmetry. I just can't seem to get into it! :/

Elana Johnson said...

I do read a lot. I'm currently reading THIRTEEN DAYS TO MIDNIGHT by Patrick Carmen, and it's fabulous.

Natalie Murphy said...

I have to read while I write too.

The last book I read was Wake by Lisa McMann.

Karen Amanda Hooper said...

I read while I write. I can't help it. I love books too much. And let's face it; sometimes we need a break from our own stories.

Just finished Adoration of Jenna Fox. Reading The Summoning and Torment is on deck. ;)

FB said...

Gah, of course of *course* one has to read. I agree with the whole thrust of it being a study of a craft - those fears of "stealing" a plot idea, well, every writer, every successful author before us has had those too. They've had influences and identified ideas already expressed.

I'm reading Eunoia by Christian Bok & Stevenson's Treasure Island & The Bloody Chamber by Angela Carter. First for poetic genius (check it out - redefining the very use of language for us), second for adventure, for adventure styling, third for short story craft (essential I feel). But def pro pro pro reading. Always.

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