Writers are Readers

Writers are Readers Kariss LynchI’ve been a bookworm since I could hold a book. Between my dad and Dr. Suess, I was breezing through rhymes and learning to recognize words from the time I could talk. The love for reading never changed but the time available to read changed drastically, especially when I began to work full time and write books on the side. I know I’m not the only one juggling a hectic schedule (can I get an amen?). As writing time increased, reading time decreased until it trickled to almost nothing with the exception of the occasional holiday.

Big problem.

For a writer, reading is mandatory. It ranks right up there with learning proper grammar. My writing began to suffer without a constant intake. In May, I wrapped up writing Surrendered and hit pause on future projects. My tank read empty in glaring red letters. I needed fuel. I needed to rest and read.

So I picked a genre I didn’t write, chose authors that are highly recommended but whom I’d never read, and I drank in the pages. Since May, I have read over 90 fiction books, and as I read, new stories came to mind. I remembered why I love writing. I remembered the power of a story. And I learned a few things in the process.

1. Read To Learn 

As book after book came to an end, I began to read reviews and reader comments. I discovered what today’s reader loves in a hero, the longing in our hearts for something bigger and grander than ourselves, and the craving for romance to be earth-shattering and enduring. I specifically read YA and NA books. This audience is the rising generation of readers, and they are reading a lot. I want to know what they like and don’t like. Concentrating on this genre helped me spot patterns that I can now apply to my own writing.

2. Read To Recognize

Every author has a different style, different voice, different way of thinking and dreaming, a different way of spinning the story on the page. Once again, I began to spot patterns from the author. I loved to identify reoccurring themes in their writing and then visit their author page to see if anything in their bio bled into their stories. I paid attention when my heart or brain keyed into particular language or how a specific story unfolded and made a note to incorporate elements of that in my own writing. One of my professors in college said that the best writers steal. I stole a lot this summer, but in the end, it shapes my own style, creating something unique.

3. Read To Enjoy

There’s something beautiful about unplugging and simply sinking into a story, especially Surrendered Heart of a Warrior Kariss Lynchone that is well crafted. My to-do lists and schedule fled as I jumped on the page and experienced the action with each character. Every time I put down the book, I rose more refreshed to tackle the world and more excited to unlock the stories bubbling within me. Reading helps me unwind and escape, but it also helps me dream. It makes me better.

I’m wrapping up a steady season of reading and diving back into my edits for Surrendered, but I’m doing so with renewed energy. I’m excited to see what happens as I begin new projects. If you’re stuck on your manuscript and feel dry and drained with new ideas, get off your computer and grab a book. Dream a little. Rest a little. Learn a little. I promise it will be time well spent. Then jump back to your story and see what happens.

Happy reading!

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Mandatory Reading

readingI’m often surprised when I hear a writer say they’re too busy to read. Really?

Is a doctor too busy to bone up on emerging diseases?

A network administrator too over-scheduled to learn the latest technology?

The teenager down the street too booked to check out a new video game?

Face it. We all wish there were 32 hours in a day to accomplish everything. Newsflash: that’s not happening. Those who are too busy writing to read just might regret it one day. It’s kind of like living on a diet of junk food. Works for now. Tastes great. But eventually your body is going to crash…and so will your writing.

There’s a bajillion reasons why reading sharpens writing, but here are the top 3:

#1. Reading hones your craft.

Seeing how others structure their sentences, weave their plot lines, or develop characters presents a model (an obviously winning one since you’re reading a published book). Read and study the big name authors who’ve mastered the craft of ordering words, then follow their example.

#2. Reading outside your chosen genre stretches your writing capabilities.

I don’t write young adult, but I read it because of its snappy dialogue. I don’t write horror, but sometimes I pick up a tastefully done creeper because of its shock-and-awe factor. I don’t write epic sagas, but sometimes I’ll page through one to fill up my beautiful prose tank. Then I can use all those elements in my historical fiction to make it a more full-bodied manuscript.

#3. Reading puts your mindset into a different world, allowing you to see your created writerly world with fresh eyes when you come back to it.

Sometimes when you’re stuck on a particular scene, it helps to walk away from it for a time and focus on something else—something like another well crafted story.

Now that you’re hopefully feeling the need to race over to your local library, what books should you invest your time into?

Big Sellers

This one is a no brainer. There’s a reason these books fly off the shelves. Pick one up and figure out why.

Classic Tales

Granted, the language in many of these can be archaic, but they’re still worth the effort. If you can dissect a classic to understand what makes the connection to a reader’s heart, then you can mimick that in your own work.

Bargain Bin Books

These are the novels nobody buys. The characters are milquetoast. The plot is flatter than the tire on my ’91 Honda. And the writing, well…let’s just say it’s marginal. So why in the world would I recommend you read one of these losers? Because even bad writing can teach you good technique simply by presenting the inverse. Besides which, it will spur on your I-can-do-better-than-that attitude.

Outside Your Box Novels

Don’t get me wrong. I’m not dissing the concept of keeping yourself well read in your chosen genre. In fact, you should be. However, you will grow as a writer if you subject yourself to other styles and more variety.

Barring the occasional looming deadline or real life catastrophe, writers should be readers. But don’t just take my word for it…

“No matter how busy you may think you are, you must find time for reading, or surrender yourself to self-chosen ignorance.”

~ Confucius 

So…what book are you currently reading?