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04/05/2010

Reading As A Writer

I read. I am a reader. Most writers are readers. There's no better way to learn the nuts and bolts of your craft than reading. Immerse yourself in the genre that you write in. Read voraciously. I've been doing this since I learned to read. I've read a lot of books and I've especially read a lot of mysteries. I am a reader.

I am a writer. I write. I write blog posts, I write short stories and I write novels. So what? What does that have to do with reading? Well, everything. You can't really have one without the other. But once you are a writer, you read a little differently. I read books because they fuel my imagination. No movie producer ever made a picture that is as good as the ones I make in my head. But now days, because I write, I also notice little things that wouldn't have bothered me before. Like echos.

An echo is a word that's used too often or too close together. Twice in the same scene, or on the same page, or if it's a very distinctive word, more than once in the same book. An echo can also be a phrase used over and over. Another thing I notice, is cliché's.

"It was as dark as midnight." Maybe it was, but isn't there a better way to say that? The best one I ever read, and I can't remember now what book it was in, but it was a hardboiled classic. The writer said, "It was a dark as a sack full of assholes." It made me laugh, and I had no doubt that character was in a seriously dark place.

Poor sentence structure jumps out at me now. If a sentence reads awkward, it bounces me write out of the story as I try to reword it so it flows more smoothly. It knocks the reader out of the way and brings out my inner editor.

Adverbs. According to popular belief in writing circles. Adverbs are the devil's spawn. I don't believe they should be banned from use, but they need to be used with care. 

Overused words. Really, back, walked, shrugged, leaned. If overused, they become meaningless. That's another thing that brings out my inner editor.

Dancing eyeballs. I'm guilty of using these myself, but rolling eyes, or dropped eyes, are bad and painful to the characters I would imagine.

There are a million and one little things that I catch when I read now. Not all of them bad. Sometimes a beautiful phrase, or a perfect scene will make me stop and long to write so well. An amazing first sentence can make me a fan forever, but now I deconstruct and try to figure out how I could write something that would draw the reader into my story so quickly.

I still enjoy reading. I still read more than a book a week. I can still lose myself in a story, so becoming a writer with a busy inner editor hasn't reduced my love of the written word, but it has made me less inclined to finish every book I start. If an author hasn't grabbed my by the end of the first chapter, I'm not going to keep reading. If the writing is awkward, I'm not going to keep reading. I'm pickier about what I read, and less tolerant of poor writing, but now when a writer makes me smile, or cry, or laugh out loud, I feel like I've been given a gift. And sometimes, I feel like I should just pack up my keyboard and give it up, because I can never write that well. But instead of giving in to that urge, I work harder on my craft. In the end, it makes me a better writer.

Writer's write, but they also read.

If you're a reader, tell me what writer moves you the most. If you are a writer, who is it that makes you want to pack up your keyboard and just give up. I'll start. Julia Spencer-Fleming. I love her books. Love them. Can't wait for the next one to be released. I read them and reread them, and every time I read her work, I sigh in despair, because if I write until I'm 90, I don't think I'll ever be able to write and beautifully or as well.

Share your favorite writer, I'll send one lucky commenter a KdBlog trinket or two. And if I'm lucky, I'll find a bunch of new authors to add to my TBR pile.

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