First Things First: Part 2
Writer and Reader
Great writers read great writers. How else can you learn the best way to write until you have experienced the effect of great writing personally? Most of us started thinking about being writers, because we read a great book and thought, “Man, I wish I had written that!” So many great writers have said this is the best way to start, that I won’t even bother quoting them all; just google “writer’s quotes about reading” and you will be inundated with praise for the art of picking up the book before picking up the pen. Here are a few quick tips for your reading habit:
1. Look again. We have all done it. You are reading one of your favorite authors and you come across this paragraph that just hits you! It was awesome! Maybe it was just a sentence. But, just like the insides of a grand piano, it resonated with you. Go back and look again. Closer. What did it? How did the author phrase that to make it so effective? Was it short? Was it a compound sentence with stark opposite comparisons? Find out and use it! It’s not stealing technique. It’s learning. And it’s cheaper than college! Which brings us to point two:
2. There is a saying: “If you steal from one author it’s plagiarism; if you steal from many it’s research.” I think it was Wilson Mizner who originally said it. Perhaps it’s been plagiarized enough that we can’t tell. There is a truth there, nonetheless. Hemingway talked of learning to find his voice by reading many of his favorite authors, finding what he liked about their writing, then using it in his own writing. We have such a legacy of giants, especially in the United States. Seriously, there is Franklin, Emerson, Thoreau, Twain, Fitzgerald, Hemingway, Dickinson, Kerouac, Clancy, King, and more! So, stand on their backs and see what you find out about their writing, and yours.
3. This part sounds like a two-step contradiction. I think it is more of a balance though. First, read authors that write about things that you want to write about. It really helps break the excuse that, “Oh, no one will read what I want to write.” View your book as just adding to a conversation that has already been started. Also, as one one author said, unlike most other practices, the best writers are very fond of other writers. The best you can do you can find a some fellow writers who are on the “same page” (har-har) But, also read authors in completely different genres than you! I don’t write war-time fiction. Actually, I despise it. I read Hemingway though, and it has taught me a lot. Well, mostly it taught that commas aren’t all they are cracked up to be. Read a Farewell to Arms. It’s like Hemingway was saying, “Yeah, I know a comma SHOULD go there. But commas suck.”
Tomorrow is our last installment. It is probably something you have already been doing and never even realized it. See you then!