Friday, September 6, 2013

Reading - The Best Writing Tool

Earlier this week, I posted this on Twitter.

My best writing advice: Marry money.

I got lots of retweets, responses, and laughs and we all know I was joking. Kind of. But I had several people ask me, what is your best writing advice?


That's my advice.

You know the saying you are what you eat? It's the same basic principle. If you don't take in words and the craft of writing, how can you hope to put words on paper in a coherent form? How will you have any words to give away?

If you are a writer and you tell me you don't have time to read...I'm probably not going to read your stuff. I just don't believe it.
But I have so-and-so degree and have taken every class ever and look at all these words I've written. All that may be true. I guarantee you know the textbook way to write. But like Good Will Hunting who can quote everything (which he read, I might add) from a book about life, he doesn't really learn it until he lives.

My point is the only way to learn how to write is to write. The only way to learn how to write well is to read. The only way to learn how to write well and find something original (or at least done in an original way) in your genre/category is to read lots of your genre/category.

                             There is no substitute.No shortcut. No easy way out.

I know very few writers in real life, that aren't a major household name, that can make a living just writing at this point. That means we all have at least two jobs, writing and the 'money-maker'. Hang on. I need to wipe the laughter-tears from my eyes as I remember I teach dance. Money-maker. hahahaha. Okay, I'm better.

So two jobs. A lot of us have kids or a husband, maybe both, maybe none of it. We have families and friends. We have to write, edit, revise, and then do all that again. Not to mention blogs, cover reveals, promotions for our books and our friends, and Twitter! Finding time to read is a challenge. I get it.

Do it anyway.

I've been a dancer my whole life. Never once did I get to say: I have so much to do plus this huge performance and all these rehearsals plus regular life and you know, sleep so let's just skip warm-up or Ballet. I would've been laughed at then promptly moved to the barre and told to 'Work.'

       Reading is like that. It keeps our writer engines running. So make time.

I have a ridiculously busy life. And I have it scheduled to the minute a lot of days. I teach dance, I freelance edit, I maintain my online presence while creating my brand, I intern for an agent, I volunteer at two schools, I run the Trash for Cash programs, I have a Girl Scout troop, I have three kids, a husband, a mother who lives far away, family that lives far way, friends spread out everywhere, I blog with two writer groups, run my own blogs three days a week, sprint and sometimes lead #writeclub on Fridays, take care of my house and my yard and cook all the meals. Basically what I'm saying is, I'm busy.

On my calendar for the weekends, three things are written - library, bookstore, read.

And every weekend, we do those three things. I share the time with my kiddos. Fridays after school, we go to the library. Saturday mornings, we go to the used book store in town. Saturday and Sunday afternoons we turn on the hi-fi and read. It's such a renewal.

But more importantly, it's like taking a class in writing craft every week. Is every book a winner?? No. But I learn from that, too. It's a no-lose situation.

So read. It does a future manuscript good.

Obligatory hot guy gif. (He's reading, see.)


  1. I agree. Reading, especially after you've learned a little about craft, is like taking a writing class as you see what works and what doesn't and all the things you've learned spelled out in a real example. Also, with audiobooks, even if you have very little time, you can squeeze a book in somewhere.

    1. Yes. Reading is the key to being a good writer.

  2. This! Reading is so important to learning about craft and also what's in your genre. :) Great post, Angi!