reading – #WhatImWriting

I love reading – always have, although I did go through a period of, ooh, close to two decades where I didn’t read more than a couple of books a year. I intended to read, I even wanted to read but somehow just didn’t seem to get round to it.
bookcase

All that changed a couple of years ago though when I got a kindle (well, I nicked my husband’s if I’m honest) and found myself going from book to book. I read any time, anywhere… in the dark while breastfeeding, while drying my hair, even when brushing my teeth. I never thought I would give up paper for an electronic device but I have to admit it revolutionised my reading life. In the past two years I’ve read well over a hundred books which I don’t think is bad going!

Anyway, this is my #WhatImWriting post – what does any of this have to do with what I’ve been writing this week? Well everything and nothing. It’s occurred to me that my increased reading pace has co-incided exactly with the period of my life when I decided to pursue my dream to become a published writer. These past two-and-a-bit years have been a major voyage of discovery for me in the literary world both as a writer and a reader.

So maybe the gear change in my reading wasn’t all about getting my hands on a kindle, maybe some of it was to do with just launching myself into another part of life? Then just as the more I wrote the more I wrote (writing breeds writing, right?), the more I read the more I read… and then the more I wrote the more I read, and the more I read the more I wrote (phew!) and it all piled up into a huge bonfire of magical worlds and other lives with sparks of creativity flying around in every direction.

And now the bonfire is ablaze and I’m dancing round it clutching books and journals and pens (and electronic devices but that doesn’t really fit with the image I’m trying to conjure up, so forget that bit) and toasting my hands before a fiery fictional frenzy.

Or something.

Anyway, I can certainly say I’m learning a lot from my reading and that’s not just – or at all – because I’m reading great serious works of literature it’s because my brain is constantly assessing everything it’s engaging with. Some books I love, some books I… tolerate but along the way there’s loads I’m learning about style and narrative and what works and what doesn’t.

Actually a brilliant learning experience for me recently was reading a book so badly written it was like a massive, flashing, neon sign saying “DO NOT WRITE LIKE THIS. EVER.” And I’m convinced it’s not just a matter of taste (because some books don’t work for me but I still can see that they’re well-written and others might like them) I really think it was just weak. It read like a first draft that needed editing (and to be fair, perhaps with some decent editing and story re-shaping it could have been fine), so much so that I actually found myself editing it as I read it – good practice for when I finally get to the editing stage of my book!

The best thing about reading though is being transported to other worlds and different lives where there are adventures to be had, mysteries to be solved, great emotions to be tussled with, tears to be shed and laughs to be sprinkled all around.  As a reader, books transform my life, as a writer they are my biggest source of inspiration.

How about you – do you read much? What impact do you think it has on your writing?

16 thoughts on “reading – #WhatImWriting

  1. Reneé

    I really need to start dedicating more time to reading if I’m serious about being a writer. I just can’t keep my eyes open once I get into bed, and that’s all the reading time I have right now. I have a huge stack waiting to be read in all kinds of genres. Need to actually read them now xxx

    Reply
    1. Maddy Post author

      Yes, get going on the reading! A kindle is great for fitting reading into tiny spare moments (and during two hour feeding marathons) – I know what you mean about feeling too tired at bedtime… although once you get in the grips of a good book it can be hard to resist!

      Reply
  2. Bronwyn

    I love reading , Paulo Coelho inspires me a lot and I love Stephan Lawhead. I often read about 4 books at once ,its weird, but I like reading different genres.

    Reply
    1. Maddy Post author

      Wow – four books at a time?! I get too tangled up with one and think I’d lose track if I tried doing that! Never heard of those authors – I’ll check them out. Thanks for commenting Bronwyn. x

      Reply
  3. Iona@redpeffer

    Oh, I totally agree with you on this. I’ve just read a book by a ‘famous person’ and it was awful. Hated reading it. My daughter enjoyed it, but I really didn’t. And I thought, I can write better than this! And then there’s the inspiring books where you just feel every word and it’s exciting, and ever so slightly intimidating at the same time, because you think, I’ll never be as good as this. Reading is and always will be my salvation, and yes it inspires my writing too.

    Reply
    1. Maddy Post author

      Absolutely Iona! – totally get what you mean about inspiring and intimidating and also, at the other end of the spectrum, the ‘I could do better!’ factor! xx

      Reply
  4. Morgan Prince

    since the start of the year I’ve finished three books. That’s quite an achievement for me. I think you’re right, the more you read the more you write etc. I’ve had my best consistent writing spell in ages and my best reading too. I agree with reading badly written books too, I did that a while back and told myself not to write like that. I try to analyse Michael Crichton books but alas I get swept away with the story, that man was a genius! Great post Maddy. X

    Reply
    1. Maddy Post author

      Thanks Morgan. I think three books so far this year is good. I think I mostly read about one a week which means I’m reading constantly but not breaking any speed reading records! I must try some Michael Crichton as the only one of his I’ve read is Jurassic Park and that was about 20 years ago! xx

      Reply
  5. Emily Organ

    Like you, I read vast amounts and this has coincided with having the Kindle app on my iPad and also becoming more serious about my own writing. I read anything and everything if it’s a bargain ebook. I’m more choosy about paperbacks as they cost more money (although I’m still annoyed with myself for wasting my money on a paperback version of Chocolat – what a boring book). I’ve also read some badly written books – one recently which has a similar theme to the third book I want to write. I couldn’t believe it had been snapped up by a publisher. The characters were dreadful, the story was rubbish… it’s all down to personal taste I guess. But yes it hopefully does make you a better writer when you analyse other books – good and bad. I think we dissected The Hunger Games quite nicely!

    Reply
    1. Maddy Post author

      We certainly did! Hunger Games was great and I enjoyed dissecting it with you! I do wonder about the personal taste thing as I think there is a lot of subjectivity in the literary world but I’d still argue that some stuff just IS badly written… although that doesn’t mean it wont sell. Hmm. Thanks Emily. xx

      Reply
  6. Sophie Lovett

    I love reading too, but I’ve often found it so hard to make time for it. It really is essential as a writer though – finding space to read as I made the first steps with this edit really helped me get the perspective I needed to carry on. I have to enjoy what I’m reading though. I have very low tolerance for ‘bad’ writing and won’t make it past the first page if I’m not drawn in by the writer’s style… X

    Reply
    1. Maddy Post author

      Reading is great for perspective – you’re right. I’ve read a few books that I could quite happily have stopped reading but somehow I felt compelled to ‘give them a chance’. Then I ended up reading them all waiting for a redeeming feature that never showed up! There’s always something to learn but I much rather learning from books I enjoy! Thanks for commenting Sophie. x

      Reply
  7. Chrissie Metcalf (Kristina)

    Ah ha, the Book of Doom returns. It was pretty dire.

    I love reading. I’m still clinging on to some of the books I’ve read recently. It’s also a great comparison tool to judge how far you are from what’s selling right now.

    Reply
    1. Maddy Post author

      Haha – yes so dire I made you read it just to check I wasn’t going mad! And yes, I read a lot of psychological thrillers so I can see what’s selling in that area (in case I ever get to the end of the book I’m writing!). xx

      Reply
  8. Nicola Young

    I agree that it all goes together. When you read a good book it inspires you to want to write like that and it fuels your imagination I think too. Having the Kindle is great for keeping your library constantly stocked up and you can get so many different books on it that you don’t neceassarily find in the shops. I like the fact that you get recommendations based on what you have bought. It makes choosing new books a lot easier.

    Reply
    1. Maddy Post author

      I agree Nicola – I think the reason I’ve been able to read as many books is because I could finish one book in the middle of feeding my son and immediately browse for, buy and start reading another before he’d even finished! xx

      Reply

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