Reading to Write

Thursday, July 20, 2017
What are you reading right now? What do you mean you don’t have time to read? Look, it isn’t me. It’s Stephen King, but he’s pretty clear on this – if you don’t have time to read, you simply do not have the time to write. He said so. And I have to suspect that the man might have a wee tiny clue.

But the truly shocking thing? The number of writers I know who don’t read or don’t read much. Their excuses vary as widely as the areas in which they write. They just don’t have time. They have families and day jobs. Or they don’t like much of what they’ve tried to read. It just isn’t any good. 

Honestly, I have to back Stephen up on this. You need to find time to do both. Don’t give me that look. I spend far too much time with teenage boys, the kings of scorn, masters of the scowl. You, my dear, are not intimidating. Maybe if you’d read you’d learn how to do it?

Because that is Stephen’s point. Read and you will develop the tools that you need to write. Here are just a few things that you can learn from reading.

Read your favorites, the books, essays, or poems, that made you want to write. Look for the things that you loved. When I was a kid, I was hooked by Marguerite Henry. I loved how she could take factual stories and spin them into compelling fiction. With this true-story vibe, her work has the ring of Truth.

Read things published in the last 2 years and you’re going to learn about the market today. This is important because it is vital to know what is out there now. Look at how it differs from what was published back when your inspiration took root. No way, no how would publishers have touched Maggie Stiefvater when I read YA. Stiefvater's YA has a raw edge. When I cut my teeth, S.E. Hinton was all the rage. Yes, I still love her stories but her books are very different from what publishers are buying today. You need to know about today.

Read, read and read some more. And as you read, pay attention to how the authors do various things. Stiefvater has created an anti-hero I adore. He’s edgy and a more than a bit mean. But he’s also frighteningly compelling.

I’m currently reading Killers of the Flower Moon by David Grann. He has spun a true story, 100% nonfiction, into something fast paced and compelling. He uses his timeline masterfully to pull you into the story. He plays with reality, giving you the facts as mainstream society originally saw them and then letting the reader in on what the Osage knew from the start.

Jane Yolen? I read her for a literary air, amazing vocabulary and masterful tellings.

Asia Citro? Her ability to teach science through fiction, combining fact and fantasy.

Lisa Wheeler? Fun word play.

April Pulley Sayre? Her use of rhythm.

Read to study what’s out there. Read to study good writing. Read so that you too can write. Seriously, just do it. It is well worth the time and effort and don't overlook audiobooks.  They can accompany you on a long commute, to the gym and even into the kitchen when you fix dinner.  Just find time to read.  Otherwise?  I'll have to go get Stephen.


To find out more about Sue Bradford Edwards' writing, visit her blog, One Writer's Journey.  Sue is also the instructor for Writing Nonfiction for Children and Young Adults. The next session begins August 14th. 


Margo Dill said...

He really is so right. I am reading The Handmaid's Tale. I also just got Orange is the New Black--didn't even realize it was a memoir before the show.

Sue Bradford Edwards said...

A memoir? I had no clue.

Mary Horner said...

Please don't get Stephen. I'll do better, I promise!

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