Saturday, November 5, 2011

Part 5: Reading, The Pancakes and Syrup

Not only is reading crucial, it’s wonderful. A staple, just like pancakes and syrup in a breakfast spread. Such an indulgence, and at the same time, where would your breakfast be without it?

The first time I picked up “The Blade Itself” by Marcus Sakey I said, “This is how I want to write.” The first time I read George V. Higgins, “The Friends of Eddie Coyle” I said, “This is how I want to write.” The first time I picked up an Elmore Leonard book I said, “This is how I want to write.” The same happened when I picked up the book I’m currently reading, “The Ballad of the Whiskey Robber” by Julian Rubinstien.  

If you’ve read any two of these authors you know their writing styles vary if not differ dramatically. It doesn’t matter. The point is to read what you think is good. The theory at work here is, “good in, good out”. If you use bad ingredients in a cake the product isn’t going to come out satisfying for yourself or anyone else who didn’t put in the (months of) work in to concoct it. And to clarify any misconceptions that could be taken from the above statement, don’t steal anyone else’s ingredients. But it is okay to be inspired by them.

What you should read often is the genre in which you enjoy writing, occasionally branching out. I enjoy a heavy amount of American Noir, Crime Fiction and True crime. Every now and then I throw in science fiction (like Chuck Hogan and Guillermo Del Toro’s “The Strain” series to satiate my wild side.

Be aware that what you read will bare an impression on what you write. It’s important to choose a variety of authors. Reading the books of one author won’t make you sound exactly like that author but rather make your writing sound like your trying to sound like that author. Reading a variety will round you out and give you your own voice. Eventually you’ll know what you’re looking for. At first I wasn’t sure what attracted me to a book. Now, I open a book and generally know from the first page, (an occasionally the first sentence) that this is the next book I’m reading. It’s because I’ve developed my writing style. I know what I want to read and I know what I want to write because of it.

(Secret Confession: There is another category of books out there containing various genres I like reading that I know aren’t helping me develop my writing for the simple fact that the writing style doesn’t present a challenge to me. These I call my guilty pleasure reading, and I love them for the lazy reading they are. Everyone has them. However, like Jerry Springer re-runs, these should be used sparingly in one’s life.)

Reading is also an amazing way to spur creativity when you are experiencing “Writer’s Block.” When I feel stuck, I pick up a book I love. I often don’t make it more than a few pages before the gears are turning.

Writing has its rules and a number of authors have made themselves truly memorable by picking up the mold and cracking it into pieces over the rule book’s head. This is not one of those rules. Writers have to read in order to develop their craft. As frequently as they write, in fact, which leads into a topic better suited for Tuesday’s post, “Part 5: Writing, The Hunger.”

No comments:

Post a Comment