Four Reasons You Should Be a Reading Writer

The other day my husband looked at the overflowing library bag. “Just how much do you have ready to go back to the library?”  I wasn’t sure show I got out the yardstick and stacked picture books, graphic novels, novels and an audio book.  The answer is 13.5 inches of library material ready to return.  It will have to wait until our library reopens but meanwhile I’ve got more reading to do.

Here are four reasons you too should be a reading writer.

  1.  Other writers can teach us about voice.    One of the books in that stack is One of Us Is Next.  In this novel, Karen M. McManus tells a story in multiple points of view.  Each of these point of view characters has a distinct voice.  Reading multiple character voices written by a single author can help us see how to create voice for our own characters.
  2. Other books can inspire us.  In Prairie Lotus, Linda Sue Park tells the story of a young girl on the prairie.  Not only does her character have the typical prairie experiences, but she experiences them as a girl who is half-Chinese.  This has encouraged me to wonder how changing one element could alter other classic tales.  What if the Wizard of Oz took place today?  What is a character from Oz were whirled into our world?  Or the Box Car children took place in outer space?  Or Little House in the Prairie was Little House on Mars?
  3. Picture books teach us to play with how words sound. I know that not all novelists or nonfiction authors play with the sounds of their text, but I have my computer read everything aloud.  And sometimes I find myself, even when writing a blog post, playing with how language sounds.  I’ll use alliteration or a string of single syllable words. And very often these are the lines that people tell me impacted them.
  4. Even books we don’t like can teach us. A first person narrator who somehow conceals their identity through the whole book.  “Authentic” southern voice that sounds like a bad imitation.  Two-dimensional settings.  I’ve seen all of this and more in books I couldn’t stand.  But by reading these books full of things I didn’t like, I learned what not to do in my own work.  Note:  I didn’t call these books bad because someone else (at least the editor and the acquisitions committee members) must have liked them.  But they did not work for me.

Writers need to be readers and thankfully I have access to the books I need.