Sunday, 21 November 2010

Reading and Breathing

A student was talking about wanting to be a writer, but finding it difficult to work out what area they wanted to write in. I asked what they read. They looked at me goggle eyed. 'Oh,' he said. 'I don't have time for reading.'

I think you can't be a writer unless you're a reader too. It may be that you read less right now, but at some point I think all writers have been avid readers. It's how we learn. Just think: Jane Austen never read a How to Write a Novel book, but she still managed to write perfectly structured novels because she'd been a reader first.

You have to read. Reading is the breathing in, writing the breathing out. I don't think it matters much what you read, but I'd suggest that your favourite genre is where you should be writing. You'll have unconsciously absorbed the way the stories are told, the conventions and how some writers break them with success - or otherwise. And unless you understand what the reading experience is like, how can you write it for anyone else?

Reading, reading, reading. It's the greatest How to Write guide there is.

3 comments:

Nadia said...

Hi Sarah, I couldn't agree more. My writing doesn't stem from a 'How to' book - but all those lazy summer days and nights spent reading novels under the bedclothes on a school night! I've lost count of the times I've stayed up until the early hours because I'm so immersed in a story - if someone ever did that with my writing I'd be over the moon, and when I'm in full flow, I think the writing and reading sensation there is very similar. I can't imagine what it would be like to try and write without tapping into those feelings that regular reading evokes - the two really do go hand in hand.

Sarah Duncan said...

I set fire to the bedclothes by rigging up a light so I could read at night. It didn't put me off though! Convinced I'm a writer because I was an obsessive reader as a child.

Nadia said...

LOL!!! I used to read with a torch - and thinking about it, I can still remember how my heart used to pound whenever I was in danger of getting caught! I've also missed my train stop once or twice because I was too engrossed in a novel. I think your theory is correct - and I can't think of any writer friends who are not avid readers too...