“If you want to write, then read, read, read!”
Ask just about any famous write who their favorite authors and books are and they’re likely to reel off quite a few. In a lively interview, popular writer Mary Higgins Clark was asked that question. She mentioned Jane Austen, The Secret Garden, and A Tree Grows in Brooklyn. PD James, the mystery writer, is also a huge Jane Austen fan. Must be something about our gal Jane’s incredible eye for detail and her ear for dialogue — countless writers have turned to her for inspiration.
While favorite authors vary from writer to writer, the core message remains the same: Writers love to read and if you want write and write well, you need to read — a lot! That’s fine with me — and probably you as well. On my end, one of my favorite things to do is to curl up with a great book. One idea of heaven for me is to sit on my porch on my wicker chaise lounge sipping lemonade and reading. The only thing missing from this picture is having my four-legged friends Watson and Ryder snoozing nearby.
But here’s the thing: We need to read critically. When Mary Higgins Clark is researching, she likes to have a real book in her hands, so she can mark it up — so do I! We need to read first for enjoyment and then with an analytical eye: looking for great turns of phrase, a fabulous character description, an evocative description of a setting. If you find yourself having a major emotional response to a phrase or passage, stop for a few moments and dissect it: Exactly how did the author trigger that feeling in you?
So the next time you crack open a book or fire up your Nook, make sure it’s not just for fun but for forensic purposes as well. Have your pen or pencil handy along with some paper and jot some notes: Investigate! There’s gold to be mined as we develop our own voices and styles. Write on!