Most writers are voracious readers as well, devouring books as fast as our busy lives will allow us. This love of reading starts at a young age, as fairy tales and the magic of books turns us on to the allure of the written word. Yet, when we are struggling with our own writing, it is easy to forget to go back to the source, and read a few books to renew our first love.
There are so many variations of fiction writing available that it is hard to decide which ones to read first. As writers, we want to use our reading time to our best advantage, reading works that will infuse our writing with renewed enthusiasm and inspiration. It is difficult to just read for pleasure. I find myself picking apart stories as I go, commenting to myself on the author’s use of metaphor or point of view. Choosing the right story will help you relax your editor’s brain, allow you to be fully immersed in the story as you read it, and come away with new writing techniques.
Classic Vs. Modern Books
When most writers think of reading to inspire writing, they turn to the literary classics, books that we may have read in school that have been deemed timeless and well written. It can be fun to read these tomes of literature, and examining them for creative word play and stunning characterization. Millions of people have enjoyed these works, and many more will for years to come.
However, writing is a constantly evolving medium, spanning the centuries. Styles, topics of interest, and audiences have all changed over time. Therefore, the classic books may not help you write a fantastic novel today. Reading modern novels will keep you on the front page of writing style, and act as a breath of fresh air to your writing. If you already have a stack of new books waiting to be read – or queued up in your Kindle – enjoy them without a sense of guilt for not reading the classic works of literature.
Genre Novels Vs. Literary Fiction
Choosing what genre to read within is another point of contention for the reading writer. As a reader, you have your favorite genres to read within, which may or may not be the same as what you write within. For instance, I love writing fantasy stories, but I read fantasy, science fiction, and even the occasional romance novel. It is up to you to decide whether reading a story within your genre is inspiring or off-putting. A well-written book causes me to whip out my own notebook, and a poorly written one encourages me to write a story far and away better!
Literary works are considered the cream of the crop in writing circles, but often these novels aren’t written for the masses. Their artistic value as uniquely crafted wordplay tends to make them hard to follow for the average reader. If you enjoy literary works, by all means read them! If you don’t, then go ahead and pass them by for something that will refill your well.
Novels Vs. Short Stories
In writing, the length of the story does matter. Novels have room for lots of twists, turns, and subplots, weaving an engaging story that leaves the reader wanting even more. Short stories are powerful within their brevity, making a single, poignant statement within the confines of a few pages.
I usually let how much time I have to devote to reading determine what I’ll read. If I have an afternoon free, I’ll cozy up to a good book, and let myself be immersed in that world. If I need a quick break between writing sessions, I’ll grab a short story to renew my enthusiasm.
What kinds of reading do you enjoy? Do you let your reading materials enhance your writing, or do you fear it will influence it too much? Do you actively read for style and writing mechanics, or do you let the story carry you away?