Write for the Love of it!
How can you use Reading to Help you with Writing?
Glenna Mageau, Award Winning Author, Speaker, Writing Coach
The Gift of Reading
Reading is such an incredible gift. It is something that we often take for granted but truly when you stop to think about it, to learn to read we put in a lot of hours. We had to learn our alphabet and then we had to put letters together to form different sounds and then we had to learn what each of those combinations of letters meant…
When you stop to think about it, how did we ever manage to stick with it long enough to learn how to read?
It truly was a lot of work to be able to read words, sentences, paragraphs and books and understand them. It truly took a lot of time to master that skill.
Why do we read?
There are so many reasons that we read and for each of us it will be a little bit different as to why and with each book we pick up we may read it for a different reason.
Some of the reasons are to:
– live vicariously through someone else
– find answers
– seek possibilities
– expand our thinking, our views, our beliefs
– waste time
– assuage curiousity
– prove something
– do research
– flex our, because I can
– find ‘me time’
– go on an adventure
– gain knowledge
– learn truth
– explore and discover history
– uncover predictions
– problem solve
There are so many reasons to engage in this pastime and so many benefits to be gained from it. It is a great activity that can whisk you away to the top of Mount Everest, drop you into a dragon’s lair, teach you Klingon, walk you through grief and loss and then give you a beautiful journey of hope and redemption. It truly can take you anywhere and/or teach you pretty much anything you want to learn.
As a writer
If you are a writer, then reading can have a whole lot more meaning and it can be an amazing teacher. To gain the hidden benefits, though, you’ll need to read differently than you normally would.
If we want to really grow as a writer than we need to use reading as a learning tool.
If you’re a writer, read differently
Reading is one of the best gifts to a writer but what does it mean to read differently?
As I mentioned above there are many reasons to read and for each of us, for each book we read we may have a variety of reasons why we picked them up. It is important as a writer that we continue to pick up books just for the enjoyment, however, to help your writing it is important that you start looking at what is written in a different light.
I want you to think of the last book that you read that really grabbed you? or that book you read a long time ago that has stuck with you? What was it about the story, the message, the way it was written that held grabbed you? That held your attention and it still sticks with you today?
Within that is the key to writing books that will remain with your reader.
What should you be looking for?
When something in a book really grabs you, makes you think, makes you feel like you are right there with the character, like you are living that life, like you have just had the greatest ‘ah-ha’, then look at why.
What did the author do that pulled you in and kept your attention?
What were the words s/he used that conveyed so much?
What emotion were you feeling as you read it?
What was the path, the journey that the author took you on to learn what you learned? to experience what you experienced?
Books are the best teachers
The truth is that books not only give us that opportunity to escape our worlds and enter someone else’s idea of the word, but as a writer they can really show you what works and what doesn’t. If you have read a book that you think is not very good or one that didn’t keep your attention, why didn’t it? What did the author do or didn’t do that made that change for you?
It changed my writing
The truth is that when I really stopped and looked at books differently, not just because I enjoyed them or learned from them but what worked and what didn’t, it really changed how I wrote. I finally understood what it was in a story that made it work.
Two authors who have strongly influenced my suspense/thriller writing are: Sandra Brown and Robert Ludlum. I love their stories and their writing. From both of them I learned how to add more depth to my story, how to add multiple characters’ point of view without overdoing it and how to add twists that people don’t see coming.
When I first wrote Captured Lies, I wrote it as a romance with a bit of suspense in it but it wasn’t what I wanted. I wanted it to be a suspense/thriller like the ones that I liked to read but I was convinced I couldn’t do it. I didn’t believe I had the skill or was good enough to be that kind of writer but I loved the story and was determined to at least try to make it better and more what I wanted.
That shift, changed everything.
Once I knew that Captured Lies could be that suspense/thriller I wanted to write, I went back to both of these authors, Robert Ludlum and Sandra Brown and reread some of their books. Why had I enjoyed them? What did they do to make me care so much about the characters? the story itself—who was going to win and who wasn’t? That’s when I gained a lot of clarity.
I tore apart Captured Lies. And no that wasn’t easy but it was definitely necessary to rebuild it into the story that I wanted it to be. As I talk about in this post – How to Add Depth, Color and Imagery to Your Story — I really started to look at what words was I using, what emotions was I invoking, what twists did I want in my story, what did I need to do to pull it all together and make it believable?
Was it Worth it?
It truly was exhausting, frustrating and time consuming but one of the best exercises that I ever went through. It truly changed my writing and my understanding of writing a great story.
Now that I ‘get it’, I love to save other writers/authors time and teach them what they need to look at for their story. What’s missing? Where is it going? What emotions do they want to invoke in the reader? What will bring their story to 3D life?
Who are the authors that you love their books? Or what books have you read that have stuck with you over time?
Start thinking about what held your attention in such a way that you still remember what was written.
Read for how the story, the book was written.
What do you want to write
Start to look at the type of book that you want to write and then look at what books have stayed with you. How did they make you feel? What did the author do with their words, their message, their story to pull you in and make it unforgettable?
“Read to develop your writing.”