Read to Write

A recent article on laments that more and more aspiring writers don’t read much.

Reading has always been viewed as an essential activity for writers, whether for priming the creative pump, checking out other authors’ technique, researching the field, or reading for fun.  (Which of course is how all writers started out.)

Writers who don’t read can end up with huge knowledge gaps in any of the above, which often show through in their work.  My favorite is the infamous case of an epic fantasy novelist who had only ever read one fantasy novel before writing his own (and a third-generation one at that: Terry Goodkind’s Sword of Truth).  It was a classic case of the reader thinking (as the Salon article puts it) “If this guy can do it, so can I!”  The (epically awful) results speak for themselves.

Alas, I’m as guilty of not-reading as anyone.  I do read magazine subs for hours every day, which makes me think a bit about writing and technique, but that’s not the same.  I blame it on not having much time, which is always a lame excuse, and on being very hard to impress.

But over the summer I started my reread of George R.R. Martin’s Ice and Fire books, in preparation for the new one.  I’m enjoying them all over again, and I’m getting a lot of new insight.  I’ve always admired his stuff, and I have kept current on his short fiction.  Maybe it’s that I’m reading slower this time or I know more about writing than when they first came out, or I’m thinking more about novels lately, but I’m seeing lots of very cool story things and writing things.

So maybe this will get me back on the reading wagon.  At least, until I finish all 5,500 pages of GRRM. :)

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5 Responses to “Read to Write”

  1. Rebecca Stefoff Says:

    I too have decided to undertake that long GRRM reread in preparation for Dance. Without it, I won’t get the full measure of #5. The only alternative is to wait until all the books have been published and I can read the series from start to finish–but I’m not willing to wait that long! Good to hear that you’re seeing new things during the reread. I hope to have the same experience.

  2. scott Says:

    I too have decided to undertake that long GRRM reread… Without it, I won?t get the full measure of #5.

    Yep–he puts in enough cool little twists and clues that I would miss them if I wasn’t up on things.

    The only alternative is to wait until all the books have been published … but I’m not willing to wait that long!


    The catch with me is that I read so slow, and make so little time for reading, that my reread may take as long as it takes him to finish the next book. :)

  3. Rebecca Stefoff Says:

    I don’t have nearly enough time for reading these days, either. Which makes it feel kind of self-indulgent to reread something, when there are a zillion things waiting for that first read. . . .

  4. scott Says:

    Which makes it feel kind of self-indulgent to reread something…

    I totally feel that way too. But I also come back to an old micro-brew mantra: “life is too short to drink lame beer.” :)

    My bookshelf is packed with all sorts of newer and debut novels, including some by writers who I respect, that I expect to be pretty good. But if I can get more out of rereading something really cool, like GRRM, then that for me is better than reading something less interesting for the first time.

    The true answer, of course, is that I need to do both. :) Baby steps….

  5. AE Marling Says:

    I too find less time to sit down and read. However, my saving grace has been audiobooks, as I can listen to them between activities or during cardio or commuting. Thanks to audiobooks, I have maintained a steady diet of fantasy.

    Also, I typically do make time to read great fantasy short stories, such as can be found in BCS. ;)