Monday, August 26, 2013

Five Weekends in August IV

Let's talk about reading.

We're all writers, so it stands to reason that we're all readers, too.

Is it possible to be a good writer without being a voracious reader?

For 2012, I set a goal of reading 35 books. I stopped counting at 40 with two months to go. This year, I'm ahead of that pace, and that doesn't even count the dry IT books I've read for my job.

Maybe you don't need to devour books, but I think you need to be a reader to have a real future as a writer.

It's like getting better at baseball by watching other people play it. It sounds weird, doesn't it? But think about it. We have baseball games in HD now, with a zillion different slow-motion replays from every angle. Never before have we been able to see grown men spit and scratch themselves with such clarity! But in terms of useful skills, you can still pick up quite a bit by watching.

Say you're a baseball player who wants to work on your swing. You can go to the batting cage or hit off a tee. It'll probably help. You can also watch some professionals play. Watch how different hitters hold their hands at the plate -- high, low, loaded back, etc. Watch their strides as the ball leaves the pitcher's hand. Watch the hitter's hips turn, forcing his arms to zoom through the hitting zone.

At some point, you have to get out there and swing the bat yourself if you ever want to improve. But there's value in watching the pros do it. The same is true for writing. If you take your craft seriously and want to get better, you have to sit down and bang out the words. However, there's value in reading what others have written. What POV do they write in? How does the setting factor into the stories? What action verbs propel the story forward? These are things you can learn while curled up with a good book. Just make sure you get out there and practice them.

Happy writing.

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