“Just write every day of your life. Read intensely. Then see what happens. Most of my friends who are put on that diet have very pleasant careers.”
—Ray Bradbury (1920-2012), fantasy & science fiction author
During the last decade, I’ve done a lot of different things to improve my writing, including
- attending writers conferences
- annually attending the MBT Deep Thinkers Retreat
- entering writing contests
- finding mentors — and listening to their advice
- following writing blogs
- upping my game with each book I write by focusing on one specific craft element to improve on
There’s always more I can be doing to become a better writer. As 2015 ended and the new year came into view, I determined to get back into one habit that I’d let slide: I’m going to read books again.
Oh, sure, I read books. On occasion. If someone asks me for an endorsement and I say yes because a) I believe in the author and b) I have time in between my deadlines. (A rare commodity these days.) To be honest, most of my reading involves reading and re-reading my manuscripts. A fairly limited amount of literature, yes?
But if you’ve spent any time in the writing world, you’ve heard authors and editors and agents exhort writers to “READ!” Reading makes us better writers. We read other books in the genre that we write. We read other authors to learn what they are doing right — or wrong. And sometimes we read just for the pleasure of it … to give ourselves some downtime.
But deciding to read more in 2016 and actually reading more wasn’t just going to happen. I had to make changes to ensure I took time to read. Here are four tips that have helped me become a writer who reads:
- Sign up for the Goodreads 2016 Reading Challenge. Join the online community by listing your goal of how many books you want to read in the upcoming year. I want to read 35 books — although my “secret” goal is to double that. I’m not worrying about anyone else’s goal. I’m competing against myself.
- Join a book club — or start a book club. When my daughter was younger, we started a mother-daughter book club, which was loads of fun. Reading books and discussing them with others is a great motivator to read. You can go the traditional face-to-face route, or find an online book club.
- Set aside specific times to read. If you just say “I’m going to read” but never determine when you are going to read, it will never happen. I’m developing the habit of closing my laptop at 9 PM and picking up a book. It’s a relaxing way to end my days.
- Read both fiction and nonfiction. I’m a novelist, but I also love nonfiction. I just finished:
- Fervent, by Priscilla Shirer, which is a wonderful book about prayer.
- Where the Wind Leads, a memoir about a family that fled Vietnam in the aftermath of the Vietnam war. The fact that the author is one of my husband’s professional colleagues makes the story all the more compelling.
And yes, I’m reading novels — both contemporary and historical and I’m about to start Curio by Evangeline Denmark, which is Steampunk.
What about you? What do you need to do to be a writer who reads?