I've been asked to blog more about reading but have been blissfully ignoring this request, and I don't know for what reason. But I must blog about it because reading is such an integral part of writing, that without reading writing is more of a limping thing that can live but will eventually fall apart, if not mended by the imagination and style of others. Precisely why I'm writing this right now is due to the inspiration I got from rereading THE HOBBIT. The 2nd movie is coming out next week, as you all know, and I thought it would be a good idea for me to reread the book, because the last time I read it, it was in Russian. Of course, my goal after THE HOBBIT is to reread the whole LOTR (never read it in English, yeah, I know). But I'm getting ahead of myself. The blog post. About reading. So. You must read as much and as wide and as diverse as you possibly can. Here is why (it just struck me like lightning, so it will totally strike you too).
Throw all rules out the window. I'm tearing my hair out here right now, because presently I'm finishing 3rd draft of ROSEHEAD, and I happened to have stumbled on certain writing rules in my time, from reading books on writing (I don't read them anymore and suggest you don't either, unless you have a thick skin and can withstand the advice without changing who you are as a writer) and have picked up a few things that writers are not supposed to do. You know. Don't use passive verbs. No such things as "was" or "be" or "is" or any of that. No-no-no. And don't you dare using exclamation marks aplenty. Your editor will laugh at you, and your editor will edit them all out. It's bad prose to end your sentences with !!!! Bad, bad prose!!!!! Anyway. Okay. As a beginning writer I took it all to heart. So in my 3rd draft I ruthlessly cut all those things out. And now I'm reading THE HOBBIT. And you know what? There are "was" and "is" and "were" and !!!!! aplenty! And there are repetitions aplenty! Like using the word "aplenty" in one sentence and then immediatelly in the next! Oh, and there are adverbs! And adjectives! And plenty of descriptions! Yes, plenty (want me to say aplenty again?)! So I sat and grabbed my head and thought, well, shit. I wish I reread it earlier. Seriously. The story reads very well, with all those "was" and ! and whatnot. So, ignore the rules. I mean, just focus on telling the story. But you won't be able to do this, unless you read a lot and see others ignore the rules. I suppose you first have to know the rules, to ignore them. Anyway... What I mean by ignoring the rules is:
Say it as yourself. This is another thing you will pick up from reading a lot. Every writer has their own way of saying things. Yes, some writing rules are universal, but we all are different, and our writing reflects that. My favorite example to illustrate this would be Neil Gaiman. When you read his books, there is a certain slow quietness about them. The story pulls you in gradually and invisibly almost, to the point when you can't remember how you got it, but by then you don't want to get out. Now, go on YouTube and watch any of the videos of Neil talking. Here is one. See how his speech is slow and deliberate, how he takes his time to think? Same with writing. When you write, you write the way you speak, the way you would say it yourself. But you don't get this feeling and don't start applying it to your own writing (at least I know I didn't) until you have read a lot and have sensed a lot of it from others. Every time I pick up a book by a new author, I'm either immediately drawn into the book or not, not because I like or don't like the style or the story, none of that. It's because I feel or don't feel the voice of the author right away. If I feel it, I believe it, I'm curious, and I want to know more. If I don't feel it, well, I put the book aside.
Read to build confidence. Sure, writing more will make you feel more confident in your writing abilities. But reading builds confidence in your writing on a completely different level. When you read a book that's been published and successful, and you see similarities to your own way of saying things, it gives you courage. You think, hey, I do it like this author too! But you won't find many of these little coincidences unless you read a lot. Because, again, we're all different. You will hardly find many of them in one book, from one author, unless you're lucky, of course, and stumble on someone who is very similar to you. So you collect these epiphanies across many books, and you cherish them, and they give you hope, this hope in your own abilities as a writer. We're all storytellers, we all have told numerous stories since we started talking, but not many of us have the courage to try and put those stories down on paper. Why? Because we're afraid. We have no confidence, we don't think we can, we don't dare, and so we never do. And we regret it, because we wish we could. Well, I'm telling you, you can. Read. Read a lot. You're bound to come across the book that will inspire you, and speak to you, and make you want to tell your story, YOUR way. If you won't read, how will you know?
There, I think I got rid of most of my burst of inspiration. After reading THE HOBBIT, that is. Seriously. It's an amazing feeling, to be able to sense the world that Tolkien has created and to think about the worlds that I'm trying to create, and to know that it's okay. If he could do it, I can do it. If I can do it, you can do it. We all can do it. Reading is the way to writing Oh, and, pssst! There is one more thing. One more perk. Now, whenever anyone sees you with a book and raises a brow and asks, hey, aren't you supposed to be working, like, to be writing a book or something? You have the perfect excuse. You say, reading is part of my job as a writer. So I'm working right now, piss off. I just tried it on my boyfriend's kids, worked like a charm.