Thursday, July 8, 2010

Best Writing Advice

True confession: every time I get stuck in my story, I buy another writing book. I own dozens and dozens of books on How To Write. Any subject is fair game. Grammar, screenplay, fiction, first five pages, last lines, scenes. I'm happy to have found HOOKED. BIRD BY BIRD, the best. I love all of Donald Maass's books, like his lastest THE FIRE IN FICTION. Tons of good advice in my critique partner's book, THE WRITING & CRITIQUE GROUP SURVIVAL GUIDE, much of which I was lucky to get first hand.

However, the best, best, best advice I ever got came from Stephen King in his book ON WRITING. Figures. The man is genius.

Here it is: Read a lot.

When I saw that, I nearly cheered. I'm always reading. Fiction, non-fiction, it doesn't matter to me. I usually have at least one of each going. And one easy read in the car for the gym. Some writers find that they can't read in their genre while they're writing. I say, .

If you're not well versed in your genre, you will not get published. Your book will not resonate with the readers you seek.Reading is the best way to understand structure, whether of an entire book or scene. Pacing will become innate. Your language will grow. Your writing will benefit so much. Read!

There is another part to King's dictum, however. The whole thing goes like this: Read a lot, write a lot.

You must do both. Lucky for me, that's my idea of a good time.


Betty Hechtman said...

I agree about reading, but I find it hard to read books that are similar to what I'm writing, when I'm writing.

Camille Minichino said...

Same here, Betty, but I agree with Terri (and Stephen!)
I tend to read "my" genre differently- from an analytic approach. For that reason, I do get more enjoyment from books that are different from mine.

Now reading Steve Martini's newest, plus "The Invisible Gorilla" (nonfiction) plus yet another Lincoln book.

Terri Thayer said...

That's the question I should have asked - what are you reading?

I'm reading "Making the Rounds with Oscar," "The Last Child" by John Hart,
(a quick reread for book club), "THe Big Lie" about HP, and "Dangerously Funny" about the Smother Brothers.

Not a cozy mystery among them. Hmmm....

Becky Levine said...

There was a big discussion on a chat the other night, about whether/how much to write your passion and/or to write to the market. Lots of stuff was said on both sides, but the thing for me is the reading. Yes, write your dream, but for goodness sake have an idea of pacing, openings, scene-structure, etc from what's being published TODAY! Oh, and enjoy the reading while you do it. :)

Carolyn J. Rose said...

I agree with both parts of this. I write and read mysteries, but I read a lot of nonfiction (mostly science-related) as well.
Reading generated ideas. And ideas breed more ideas.
The pieces of advice that have worked for me are 1)write the first draft at top speed so your unconscious isn't throttled by your internal critic, and 2)once your characters are developed, allow them to lead you.

Linda O. Johnston said...

I agree that reading helps, Terri. I sometimes read in other genres for inspiration or for information about what else is out there. Oh, and I also read for fun!