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Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Do You Read Too Much?

Do you love to read? Most writers do. They can’t seem to help themselves. They can’t help picking up newspapers, books and magazines. When nothing else is available, they read advertisements and the backs of cereal boxes. I’m that kind of reader and I suspect you are as well.

Voracious reader learn early that others do not necessarily share their obsessions with words, stories, books and reading. How many times has someone told you that "you read too much?" Pay them no mind. They don't understand that reading is as beneficial to a writer as exercise is to an athlete.

Lots of reading frequently leads to writing. Reading puts the patterns of writing in our heads. By osmosis readers learn style, pacing, grammar and word choice. Avid readers learn how writers plot their stories. Genre readers are actually aficionados of a particular type of plot. When the reader begins to think about becoming a writer, she starts to pay more attention to how writers do their work.

Early attempts at writing usually imitate the writers or genres we love. As a school boy Stephen King wrote an imitation of the Fall of the House of Usher, photocopied it, and sold it to classmates. His friends bought it eagerly. Many other successful genre authors began writing the kind of books they loved. It is a logical, natural progression.

Every book you read offers something to you as a writer. Even a bad book teaches you how not to proceed. Reading widely, you learn to distinguish among a variety of voices. By suffusing yourself in many voices, you are more likely to find your own distinct voice. Reading widely introduces you to how difference writers go about solving a particular problem. Reading is the post-graduate education of a writer.

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