Reading. Its dumb-important to anyone wishing to become a writer, a decent college essayist, or a fancy little emailer of things—set on trying to impress their friends with juicy words like kibosh, shtick, or todays dictionary.com word of the day: cozen.
But, whats the best way to make the most out of those reading sessions, when your curled up in your little nook, sitting with a fav-book and a cup of ale? (or coffee, coffee’s probably better…woops!) Well, there are man ways, but, this is what I do, this is what I’ve found works best for me. What deepens my ‘voice’, pacing, vernacular, scene structure and overall core of my, and maybe soon to be your, best writing.
Organizing A Reading Session. Strengthening Your Eclecticism:
Regardless of if you write fiction, fantasy, historical or memoir the bounce and pacing of your words can be the difference between intriguing the reader or causing them to put your book down, bored, annoyed, or even, saucily mad for having paid money—hard earned ‘I’m in debt’ money—for this…this! What a waste?
Which can happen sometimes, regardless of how wondrous the topic or pretty the subject your speaking on is, I find—that if its written well—I’ll read it. Countless times I’ve resorted to reading books on mycelium, trees, the anatomy of the spine, drugs, and how they are metabolized—not because I’m a geek for those topics—but because of how sweetly they were scribbled, written and scribed.
So how can you better the lilt, melody and pacing of your words? How can you enamor someone, anyone, with the simple dance of your words?
For one, read widely, read vastly, read short stories and hats. Read every genre of book and every article nearest you, whether its the obituary in todays local paper or buffoonish comic book. Read. Read vastly.
Let me be more specific. Say you—as a whatever-kind-of-writer-you-wish—have set aside 2 hours to read as your ‘quota’ each day. Sure, some days you may spend those 2 hours in a book you can’t put down. (especially if your reading anything by Neil Gaiman.) Other days madly scrambling to read any news article, blog post or newspaper to keep you mind sharp, crisp and elegant. But ideally, the best case scenario would be to split your reading time up into separate categories—for example:
Lately, amidst working on a young adult fantasy novel, with themes relating to things like, mostly, mental illness and a child who’s, ‘coming of age’, as they say; I’ve been breaking my reading sessions up four ways, like this:
Read a half hour of quick paced mystery/commercial/suspense/romance novels…why?…because it’ll better your idea of how a scene should be hastily paced. Of how to change scenes smoothly without causing the reader to ‘lose interest and walk away’. Gillian Flynn comes to mind as someone who does this best. She has well-plotted, fast dialogue, and slick changing scenes of suspense that’ll hold you to the end, because maybe, you could say, Gillian, has a pen that dances. 😉
Check her out, you might just learn a-ting-or-two.
Also read a half hour of something thicker, more lyrical, more literarily rich. This’ll help you strengthen your vocabulary. There are a plethora of funky, large, yum-yum words in books by classical writers like, say, Steinbeck to more contemporary pens like Tana French. I recommend checking out Tana’s standalone novel ‘In the Woods’. Its sooo FIRE. After a couple of days of reading these types you’ll see your setting scenes liven; your usage of adjectives become slicker and cute to the point you may just start to enjoy this thing called writing, confidant at you bettering, growing skill.
Then dig into a textbook. Personally, I don’t read this type as much as I should. This isn’t one I’d advise doing daily–seeing that it can cause your writing to become sluggish and slow (especially if your trying to write something in the young adult genre–but if your a nonfiction writer who builds their world on research or even a fantasy author wanting to be versed fluently in a topic your book touches on, try this out. It can be a game changer most days, putting a little file in the back of your mind like a sheathed sword when your mid-sentence of crucial chapter and think ‘I forgot that I knew that, well whadda ya know. I do know stuff sometimes.” 😉
Lastly, finally, pick up something poetic. This one’s my favorite–though most of my fellow YA writing friends shun any idea related to poetry–I like it. It can be a little tool in your side-pocket most don’t have or use or take advantage of.
Because there is no better place to see how tersely lyrical words can be paced, melodic, versed, and structured than poetry. Sure most poetry is ambiguous, vague, feeling like a job to understand. But just as many are beauteous and useful and could really separate your voice, add little spice to the way in which you phrase things making your passages pop that much more…tasty.
My favorite, of all time, is the free-verse poet Charles Bukowski. No question, no debate, though he’s a little to ‘grungy’ for most. Check him out, he’s fancy.
But note, that is only an example of the ways, a little seed of thought of what you can do to structure your own reading into a practice and professional regime. Let me know what ya think. Let me know the examples you would have choose as your, favorites literary, suspense, and poetic scribblers.
Who are the legends whispering advice in YOUR ears when YOU write?
Showing up and reading everyday for how ever long you do, is essential.
Do it everyday.
Accumulate the different tones of how a the sports page in your favorite news article is written, the voice a textbook uses when describing mitosis, the pop and spin middle grade authors use to be playful, the hold-your-breath suspense of gripping dialogue in books by, say: James Patterson.
Yes, your voice will be your voice. But to practice knowing what every form of writing sounds like, to know whats out there, what sounds good…to you. Thats where your voice comes from, where it is built. Solidified and crafted.
My dogs scratching on my door. Her names Gracie and she has a crooked lip and a stubby tail and I’m gonna take her out side for a walk with those greenie treats she likes now. Because she deserves it and a walk would be healthy for the both of us…
See ya writing friends.
Hope this helped.
Let me know if it does.
Let me know if it doesn’t.
*keep the pen dancing, keep a dancing pen.