Monday, October 4, 2010

Reading Fiction to Improve Writing

I'm a true believer that writers should be reading... a lot! I've been so busy with life lately, I haven't been able to read as much as I'd like to, but what I have read lately has been inspiring as far as writing goes.

For example:

From Scott Westerfeld's THE LAST DAYS:
"Though her long arms were thin and wiry, her muscles were almost as defined as mine...Her movements were slow and pointy, articulated in the wrong spots. I couldn't take my eyes off her: it was like watching a stick insect walk along a branch" (page 78).

Now... while this breaks a couple of "rules" that aspiring writers are *told* to follow, notice what it does very well: describe.

While this is not my favorite book of all times, I did find several passages that I HAD to mark - because of the writing.

Here's another (a simple sentence, and it I felt compelled to mark it):
"I couldn't remember why being miserable had seemed so important" (page 91).

Another thing I learned from reading this book:
Repeated phrases can get pretty annoying. I understand Westerfeld was probably trying to create separate identities for the characters, but by the fifth time a phrase, such as: "That was kind of lateral" (page 98), came along, I found it very irritating.

Anyhow, taking a break to read a book in between revisions could be a very helpful and insightful process. Mark pages while you're reading, because if you're anything like me, you'll forget the inspiration by the time you reach the end of the book.


  1. That's a great idea. I really should take to reading with a pencil...


  2. This makes a lot of sense. I read in much the same way but never tag the inspiration.

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  3. Good advice! I try to read as much as I can, though I watch way too much TV, it cuts into my time. Oh, and I hate repeating phrases! I read a book where she constantly wrote "They all but..." or "I all but..." Ugh!

  4. Great advice! I do this in between revisions a lot to remind me what good writing sounds like.

  5. Those are some great examples. Sometimes the break from your own voice is just what you need. Thanks!

  6. Thanks people! I appreciate the comments!