Read Like a Writer, Write Like a Reader?

One of the things I love about social media is it makes my brain buzz.

Read like a Reader, Read Like a Writer

About a week ago I wandered into a conversation going on in Jen Storer’s Duck Pond Facebook Group about whether writers should read. Jen has written a thought-provoking blog post (Want to Be a Writer? 6 reasons You Should Stop Reading) about how daunting or expectation-creating reading can be for some writers and even ventured to suggest some writers shouldn’t read too much in their own genre – maybe only the top five novels. My feet are firmly planted in the “writers who believe in reading a lot” flower pot but I get what Jen is saying. I’ve read books that have left me breathless with their words and story, and at the same time devastated me because I will never write that story or one as good as it. But then I think, even a book half as good would be publishable so I need to aim for higher than that bar. And I get all inspired and excited by the book I read and write enthusiastically.

It’s an art and craft kind of thing. Reading like a reader is art,

immersing myself in the story and losing sight of the world. 

Reading like a writer is craft, paying attention to the structure,

picking things apart so I can learn. 

I believe writers need to read, lots.  For me it’s an art and craft kind of thing. Reading like a reader is art, immersing myself in the story and losing sight of the world. Like when I saved Sofie Laguna’s new novel The Choke, for a three hour Book Week train trip north because I wanted to read it in one go. When I got to my station I still had a page left. I’m always early so I sat on the platform and finished it. As soon as the last word was read, the sobs started. Not crying. Sobbing.

Reading like a writer is different. It’s all about craft, paying attention to the structure, picking things apart so I can learn. I often read a book twice so I can read it both ways. Whenever I read one of Jack Heath’s Minutes to Danger series, I know I have a tutorial on writing action and tension in my hand as well as a good read.

Write like a Reader, Write like a Writer

Tonight I sat down to surf a few blogs. Zanni Louise was blogging about attending an event where Tristan Bancks interviewed Andy Martin about his new book about Lee Child writing, Reacher Said Nothing: Lee Child and the Making of Make Me. It’s a very interesting blog post (read it here: What I learned from Lee Child) but what stopped me mid- paragraph was this: Lee Child says he Writes like a Reader. That’s so succinct. We write to be read so we need to Write like a Reader. And we can only do that if we read (like a reader or a writer). So this was resonating like crazy with me and then abruptly, mathematical me felt lopsided.

If we Read like a Reader and Read Like a Writer, then maybe we need to Write like a Reader and Write like a Writer. At first it sounded indulgent to write like a writer, but then I figured if we write for ourselves as reader then that’s okay. But maybe here’s another facet. Maybe to write like a writer is the need to be disciplined and to have some sort of writing routine. Even Lee Child has a 10% typing and 90% daydreaming routine.

After all that thinking, I’ve decided that I’ll continue on like I do. Read like crazy. Write like crazy. I’m also going to read my first Jack Reacher novel.

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3 responses to “Read Like a Writer, Write Like a Reader?”

  1. Jen Storer says:

    Love it, Sandy! Keep right on doing it your way, honey. That’s the thing, really, it’s about finding your own strengths, in your own way, and developing them. Great post!

  2. Freddy Iyrss says:

    I agree, we need to keep reading widely and write furiously. How did you go with your Jack Reacher novel, Sandy?

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