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.
3 responses to “Read Like a Writer, Write Like a Reader?”
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!
I agree, we need to keep reading widely and write furiously. How did you go with your Jack Reacher novel, Sandy?
I read it like a writer – and learned a lot. As a reader, it wasn’t for me.