Saturday, October 6, 2012

Reading -- As Important for the Writer as Writing

I'm working on my 10th book, which happens to be the fifth (and final) book in the Sexton Chronicles. You should buy them all, by the way!
   Commercial aside, I'll get back to the story:

   I've been banging away happily on my own books. If you read Blackout: A Look Inside Wernickes, you'll remember that I was quite ill about seven years ago. In fact, I could easily have died from that illness. As I recovered, I typed the work of several different authors. I was trying to rebuild my brain, and I'm glad I did that. Doing so allowed me to take note of every facet of each author's writing. More importantly, it helped me flex mental muscles that hadn't been flexed--or if flexed, bent to hell and back--and come back to myself.

Lately, though, I've been doing the second most important thing a writer can do. (The most important thing a writer can do is write.)

   I've been reading. Like the guy perched comfortable on the side of the mountain, I've been enjoying the spectacle of other people's fiction. In one sense, it's a break. I get to relax and let someone else unfold events, build characters, and give me a new perspective.

   It's not easy to read when you're a writer. I don't analyze other people's writing if I can help it. I'm not a nit-picker by nature. Unfortunately, though, I do find myself caught up in the trees rather than the forest sometimes. I see sentences and paragraphs and can have a heck of a time just...well...reading.

   I forced myself. I forced myself to start spending a couple of hours each day in my favorite chair, in what I now call my reading spot. Reading Spot. It's an old, brown wing chair I bought right after I graduated college. It sits under a lamp on the top landing of the staircase on the second floor of our big house. When I glance up, I can look out the window at the trees, sky, and a bit of the street below.

   It's good to read without judgement. Without trying to figure out where the story is going, or where I would take it if I was the writer. I'm happy to report I've been able to do that lately, and it's precious to me. I'm not going to imitate the style of the authors I'm reading. I'm not even thinking about their style. I'm just reading.
  Actually, I suppose there's more to it than that. I'm absorbing. There's no way to pinpoint what I'm learning as I read. I just let the images, characters, and story take me to where the author wants me to go.
  Then, when my fingers caress my own keyboard, they do so with more grace. That's probably not the right word, but it's close.

It's the most enjoyable way I've found to improve my own writing.

And now for a blatant commercial -- Try one of my books. I think you'll like them.