Read through any list of writing tips from major authors and, chances are, there’ll be something about reading.
William Faulkner famously advised, “Read, read, read. Read everything – trash, classics, good and bad, and see how they do it. Just like a carpenter who works as an apprentice and studies the master. Read! You’ll absorb it. Then write. If it’s good, you’ll find out. If it’s not, throw it out of the window.”
Stephen King, not one to mince words, has said that, “If you don’t have time to read, you don’t have the time — or the tools — to write. Simple as that.”
Fantasy and science fiction writer, Michael Moorcock, quotes advice given to him by another famous author, “My first rule was given to me by T.H. White, author of The Sword in the Stone and other Arthurian fantasies and was: Read. Read everything you can lay hands on. I always advise people who want to write a fantasy or science fiction or romance to stop reading everything in those genres and start reading everything else from Bunyan to Byatt.”
But does it work the other way around? Can writing make you a better reader?
I Think It Does And Here’s Why:
As a child I was a voracious reader and for me the story was the thing, so I’d plough through books at a rate of knots. But since I’ve started writing fiction myself, I’ve really begun to look beyond the story.
It’s great fun to re-read favorite books first read as a child or teenager. Take for example, To Kill A Mockingbird by Harper Lee. It knocked my socks off to see how, on second reading, Lee moves seamlessly from the long shot to the close up by way of her narrator, Scout. When we first meet Scout, she’s an adult and we get the overview. Then she’s a little girl and Lee takes us in close to the action.
Another fave I’ve just put down after a second reading is Katherine by Anya Seton. Writers are told to be careful of ‘head-hopping,’ that is changing point of view, particularly within scenes. Yet Seton raises ‘head-hopping’ to an art form; often jumping back and forth within paragraphs. It shouldn’t work but it does. Another thing she aces is pacing. Seton moves quickly, often summarizing, and then slows right down and hovers over important events. I couldn’t put Katherine down, even though I knew what was coming next.
A Straw Poll Of Writers
But that’s only my opinion. To get a broader view on whether writing improves reading, I asked a group of writer friends and the responses came thick and fast. Not surprisingly, many said they’d become much more critical.
These five comments sum up the views of the group:
- “I do read differently, I’m more aware, dig deeper, question more, but for the most part still enjoy just as much. I’m a rule breaker writer, so I’m a tolerant reader.”
- “It is difficult for me to “just read” now. I find myself correcting their work or altering words. Also, continuity issues get to me more now.”
- “I think I better appreciate good writing. Some phrases, descriptions, synonyms, etc. really fascinate me and I am in awe of other writers’ cleverness.”
- “Yes! It definitely has changed the way I read. I mistrust every character that enters a story and try constantly to find double meanings. I’m terrified to predict anything, lol. But it’s awesome.”
- “I also find I’m able to predict plot twists a lot more easily now (this happens with films too) so if a writer really keeps me guessing then I’m impressed!”
What do you think? Can writing make you a better reader?
Youtube Channel: Lyra Communications
Featured image via Flickr