Read. Read. Then Read Some More

Go to any writer’s workshop or seminar and the one consistent piece of advice you’ll hear repeatedly is, “Read.” Writers who don’t read will simply never be successful. How can they be? That’s like being a musician but never listening to music. It’s impossible to learn the craft of writing without seeing it done well…and not so well.

Last week, Linda and I were talking about books we’d read recently. I realized my reading list has been a little eclectic lately. The only fiction I’ve read is Marilyn Pappano’s Copper Lake Secrets and The Rag and Bone Shop of the Heart, a poetry anthology. Everything else has been non-fiction. Titles include:

Life, the autobiography of Keith Richards, guitarist for the Stones;

The Rite, by Matt Baglio, which is about the making of modern exorcists;

What the Bible Says About Angels, by Dr. David Jeremiah; and

The Story of A Soul, by St. Therese of Lisieux.

Even though these books aren’t fiction, they still have a tale to tell. From each, I’ve learned a great deal about structure, voice, plotting, and imagery, not to mention the life of an iconic rock star, demons, angels, and the journey of the soul.

Read any good books lately?

13 thoughts on “Read. Read. Then Read Some More

  1. Yes, I’m afraid I have. By that I mean that as a writer I do tend to avoid reading. I avoid it in case I start to imitate just because I think something is good. I can function as an imitative writer and a parodist – I know this because I have done many, many exercises in emulation and parody, and if I am that adept at it consciously how can I avoid the feeling that I might be doing it sub-consciously? Do I wait until some reviewer says “Clearly Marie Marshall is ripping off so-and-so…”?

    What I would dearly love to claim – and probably can’t – is that my use of words in my native language is something I build up from the floor, to no one else’s plan. That’s the sort of poetry and prose I aim for. My own. No one else’s. I knew a man who played jazz piano and who, at an early stage, stopped listening to any recordings of other jazz pianists, stopped going to gigs, stopped frequenting places where anyone else played jazz piano, stopped cold, so that his music would be as purely his own as he could make it.

    On the other hand… I don’t think I can escape what Julia Kristeva calls ‘intertextuality’. In fact in my latest collection of poetry (work in progress) I have dedicated the whole thing to her and have given in to making conscious references to things already read. Why not slide with the tide? Just don’t drown by trying to swallow too many ready-made words.

    Well, anyhow, thanks for a stimulating post with my early-morning cup of tea.

    Marie Marshall

    • Marie,

      Thanks for stopping by. I know what you mean about not wanting to have someone else’s voice intrude on your work. As writers we walk that fine line.

      BTW, I read the poem on your site. It’s lovely. It’s ironic you stopped by this blog spot on my day–my husband is a descendent of a poet from Scotland, Hew Ainslie.

  2. Right now, I’m catching up on my Amelia Peabody books. Somehow, I got behind. But recently, I read the entire Captain Lacey Regency mystery series. At first, he was going through women like popcorn, but finally he met someone perfect for him and it was fun watching him and Lady Barbara fall in love. Hopefully, the next book will be the wedding.

  3. I’ve always got a book going. Usually they’re suspense, but every now and then I’ll pick up a regency, inspirational or super romance. Yeah. You caught me. I mostly read Harlequin. What can I say? 😉

  4. Well, it’s always wise to read the line you write for, Linda. And there are lots of talented authors who write for Harlequin! I know a few….and a some that are just a submittal away. Gee, I wonder who they are? 🙂

  5. I’ve been reading fantasy (Robert Jordan), chick-lit, inspirational, historical . . .

    When I’m writing, I tend not to read the same genre I’m waiting. It’s not that I worry about adopting the author’s voice but that I don’t want someone else’s characters/plot in my head. Then, after I finish the book, I dive in and read everything I can get my hands on.

    • Marilyn,

      I know what you mean by not wanting characters and plot in my head. That’s why I tend not to read my genre right now. But wow to have a pile of books waiting for me when I get done.

  6. I read all the time. I usually have two or three books going at one time. Just finished COPPER LAKE SECRETS. (Great book, Marilyn!) Right now I’m reading DESPERATE HOUSEDOGS. (Sparkle Abbey) and DADDY’S LITTLE MATCHMAKERS (Kathleen Y’Barbo).
    Next, I have HOME FRONT (Kristin Hannah). I only know that CLS is a Suspense and MATCHMAKERS is Inspirational. The other two are just good books.

  7. I loved seeing what everyone was reading. I’m reading a darling romance called SWEET AND SNARKY on Kindle. (It’s available hard copy, too.) I recommend it for fun light read.

    Good post, Lynn.

    • Thanks, Jackie. It’s interesting to see what others are reading. I tend to find intriguing titles and new authors to try out.

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