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!

Will Reading Fiction Turn Men Into Sissies?

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Upon learning I’m a novelist, many brethren (opposite of sisters) tell me they don’t have time to read, especially fiction. My brother-in-love, bless his heart, wants to write “real books.” My friend Torry Martin, who works for Adventures in Odyssey, doesn’t have time to read fiction.

Hey, my grands listen to Adventures in Odyssey. I’ve listened to the books on tape when traveling with them. Okay, okay, that’s not reading. But, it is fiction. It is story. And, we get totally immersed in them.

So, this brings up a question. Is fiction reading something only for women and children?

Not according to the Art of Manliness.

“Whatever the reason, cognitive studies are beginning to show men might be short-shifting themselves by avoiding the fiction section in the bookstore and library.  Today we make the case for why you need to put down those business books every once in a while and pick up a copy of Hemingway.”

Scientists have discovered fiction stimulates and improves the functions that allow us to survive in society. Unfortunately, men received the short end of the stick when it comes to the ability to socialize.

“Most of your success as a man,” says Dr. Keith Oatley, “whether in love or work, depends on your ability to socialize adroitly. We’ve all heard the phrase, ‘Success depends not on what you know, but who you know.’ As much as you’d like to think that’s not true, it is. You can be the most skilled and talented whatever in the world, but you’ll likely labor away in obscurity if you don’t know how to reach out and share those talents with others.”

The brains of boys and girls are the same in the womb, but a male brain changes at birth. (I learned this from Dr. Gary Smalley. Didn’t everyone?) In order to deal properly in our world, and in our respective roles, most male brains are good at dealing with stuff, while female brains are typically better at dealing with people.

While this might explain why women often prefer fiction over non-fiction, men probably have the most to gain from reading fiction.

Instead of seeing fiction as a bunch of made-up, waste-of-time baloney, looking at it as a simulator allows both men and women to exercise and strengthen the ability to socialize. Men, every time you pick up and read a novel, you’re molding yourself into a better, more socially adept man.

Mystery novels particularly exercise the mind. Whenever you read a Dashiell Hammett novel, you’re guessing right along with Sam Spade about what the subtle gestures or the words really mean. Is the suspect or witness just saying something to throw you and Spade off the trail? Reading fiction is wrestling with reading the minds of the characters and taxing and fun at the same time. Literary critic, Lisa Zunshine, says the mental workout you get from reading a detective story does for the brain what lifting weights at the gym will do for your physical body.

When asked if there is a special type of fiction that men should read, Dr. Oatley’s response was to read whatever interests you. The result is the same when reading highbrow Russian novels or lowbrow dime paperbacks.

“Our studies show that the effect fiction has on the mind is independent of literary quality,” says Dr. Oatley.

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He recommends reading a wide variety of fiction, which allows us to get to know more people in more circumstances.

“Read those Louis  L’Amour and Michael Crichton novels without any guilt. You’re helping yourself become a charismatic social-dynamo.”

So, men (or women :)), what novels have you read lately?


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