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. Then we had to put letters together to form different sounds. Then we had to learn what each of those combinations of letters meant.
Honestly 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.
Why do we read?
There are so many reasons that we read. For each of us it will be a little bit different and each book we read we read it for a different reason.
Some of the reasons are:
– to learn
– to escape
– to live vicariously through someone else
– to explore
– to find answers
– to seek possibilities
– to expan our thinking, our views, our beliefs
– to waste time
– to prove something
– because we can
– to withdraw
– to find ‘me time’
– to go on an adventure
– gain knowledge
– learn truth
There are so many reasons to read. And so many benefits to be gained from reading. It is a great activity that can whisk you away to the top of Mount Everest and then drop you into a dragon’s lair and then teach you Klingon and then walk you through grief and loss and then give you a beautiful journey of hope and redemption. It truly can take you anywhere and 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. But you will need to read differently than you normally would, to gain the hidden benefits.
The reasons that a writer may read are pretty much the same as is listed above, however 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 that we read them. It is important as a writer that you continue to read just for the enjoyment however, to help your writing, it is important that you start looking at books 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?
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 twists that people don’t see coming.
In Captured Lies, I first wrote that story as a romance with a bit of suspense in it but I wanted it to be a suspense/thriller but I was convinced I couldn’t do it. I had no idea how to write one but I knew I loved reading them.
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 rebuilt it. 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?
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 authors that you love their books? Or what books have you read that have stuck with you? Start thinking about what held your attention in such a way that you still remember it.
Read for how the story, the book was written.
“Be clear on why you want to write about certain events can you change them and still feel good about what you wrote?”