Sunday, January 19, 2014

Sunday Musings: January 19 2014

Hello, again. Let’s get right to today’s musing, something we all love doing…reading.

Why must writers read? A question or a statement…why writers must read. 

Personally, these two (reading and writing) are the perfect marriage pair. Can’t have one without the other. Then again, I’m addicted to both. So on to our Muser family and their musings…

Mary-Jean Harris author of the upcoming AIZAI THE FORGOTTEN

Writers definitely have to read to hone their skills by learning what works and what falls short. But I think the real reason that authors must read is because they are in love: in love with written words and the stories that can be told through them. Both writing and reading are parts of the same eternal love that writers have for stories, and so we read and write because we were made to do it, even if sometimes, the time slips by and we forget what we truly love to do.

Marsha R. West author of VERMONT ESCAPE and upcoming TRUTH BE TOLD

Why must writers read? Because we were readers before we ever became writers. My grandchildren are readers. The youngest is 2 ½; the middle one is 3; and the oldest is 4 ½. All read, minimally pointing to the picture and saying “apple,” or to the letter and saying, “A.” The oldest reads the Bob Books. I have fond memories of my parents reading to me, DH and me reading to our daughters, and now to our grands. My biggest frustration about becoming a writer is how little time I find to read for pure enjoyment and escape. Not that I’d go back to being unpublished. LOL Reading has always provided me with escape, inspiration, and motivation. How could I give that up?

Matthew Peters author of the upcoming THE BROTHERS’ KEEPERS

This is a timely topic: I am currently reading Francine Prose's book Reading Like a Writer, which provides very excellent insight into this question. I highly recommend it.

For me, reading good literature is essential to the writing process. Quality writing serves as a template of how to go about getting your own ideas in order and putting them on the page. After I finish reading a good author I often find myself thinking a little bit like him/her and conceiving of things the way he/she would. 

Similarly, I think the best books are written while reading. Meaning that as you read good books, ideas often come to you, and should be written down for later use. 

Finally, reading is important to writing because it reminds you that after all the architectural work that goes into crafting our sentences and plots, at the end of the day it is the story that matters. Reading good stories helps remind me of that.  

First of all to be a good writer you need to know what readers want to read. So you need to be a reader to know this. Also, writers can learn a great deal about writing by reading. You see the way a story flows and how a writer builds characters. You learn about the different types of genres and see various POV's. As you read you find which genres you like. Plot is important and reading helps you as a writer by allowing you to see how various writers 
build suspense to the climax. But the best reason for writers to read is for fun😊

Reading leads to growth. A person is never to old to learn. 
I enjoy relaxing, curled up with a good book.

I spent several years taking some fantastic courses in learning to write for children and teens at the Institute of Children's Literature, but one of the best ways I learned was from reading. Every writer needs to know what is going on in the genre she/he wants to write, and the best way to know that is to read that genre. Today, most of what I read is in the upper Middle grade and teen YA genre. Here, I learn about character building that will interest and intrigue kids, about how the plots rise from nothing to become exciting, fascinating, and designed to capture a kid's/teen's interest from page one. I learn about the situations and the events that kids today go through and how they deal with them. I learn what sells to these kids, and what doesn't, and often, why it doesn't.

A lot of writers say it must be easy to write for kids, but that is a fallacy. Most any adult will read not only the first chapter, but usually 2 or 3 chapters of a book before they say, "This is dull, or boring, or badly written, or whatever" and put the book down for ever. A kid will read the first page...maybe...and if his interest is not captured on that first page, the book goes down. Forever. Don't believe me? Ask your own kids!

So when we, as writers, read, we usually read not only to be entertained, but also to learn what is good writing, good character and plot development,and what, at the moment, is capturing the interest of the reader and selling. Then it's up to us to write a book that outclasses that "good character and plot development" of the one we just read, and become a Times Best Seller!

Reading inspires me to be a better writer.

Writers must read. Not that we should have to be mandated. Reading is not only decadent escape, but professional development. See what others are doing and get ideas. Writers not reading would be like skiers skiing in isolation, never watching tricks their fellows have come up with and incorporating those into their own tool bags, which, when tried, will come forth with individual thumbprints.

This writer must read for a variety of reasons. First of all I have a collection of non-fiction books about the business of writing. Yes, business! Apart from the joy of writing historical fiction, I am aware that agents and publishers expect to make money from their clients, and that if authors hope to earn some something as a reward for all their hard work they need to understand the business aspect of their profession. For further help I have a number of books on How to Write which offer tips on matters as diverse as grammar, characterisation and themes.

Secondly I am aware of my obligation to my readers to present a believable past world instead of falling into the trap of writing about 21st century people in costumes. The shelves of my bookcases are crammed with biographies, autobiographies, books about shopping, economic history, costume – including one about underclothes through the ages – social history, food and so much more. If necessary I am prepared to stay up for half the night researching obscure facts. In addition I read newspapers, magazines and journals from the past and present. So far my readers appreciate my efforts. They comment on the rich historical background of my intriguing (their word not mine) novels, and award them five star reviews.

Last but not least, I read as widely as possible to discover what people enjoy reading. As a historical novelist I find the quarterly and biennial publications of the Historical Novelist Society, which I belong to, are very helpful. The magazines list new titles published on both sides of the big pond and elsewhere.

Dawn Knox author of the upcoming: DAFFODIL AND THE THIN PLACE

Communication can be broadly divided into four registers: speech, academic prose, news and fiction. My advice to writers is to explore these registers as often and as deeply as possible, as much to learn new styles and gain new ideas, as to find the differences between them. Deconstructing a text can show how the author originally constructed it and evaluating that text to determine how successful you think it is, can help you to build a framework for your writing.
If the thought of ‘deconstructing’, ‘analysing’ and ‘evaluating’ sounds rather dull, the good news is, that if we read lots of different materials, we can find we’re doing all those things without really thinking about it!

Kenneth Hicks and Anne Rothman-Hicks, Coming Soon: THINGS ARE NOT WHAT THEY SEEM

“Read me the topic one more time, will you, Anne?” I said, scratching my head.
Anne sighed.
“The topic is ‘Should a writer read?’”
“Yeah,” I said.  “I thought that was it.  It’s a hard one, right?  I mean it’s really kind of philosophical.  Almost existential? ”
“It’s a simple question, Ken,” Anne said. “Just write a paragraph and I’ll take a look at it.”
“Okay, Anne.”  I stared at the screen a while.  “She must mean ‘should a writer read other people’s stuff, huh?  I mean it doesn’t make sense otherwise.”
“I think you’re on the right track,” Anne said.
“You’re not being sarcastic, are you?”
“Who me?”
“Because it’s really hard.”
She sighed again.  Anne sighs a lot.
“Here’s an idea,” she said.  “Remember the time when we were working on a story and someone wrote in the margin, ‘MAKE LESS STUPID.’”
“Yeah.  Heh, heh.”
“Well, how would we have known how to make the writing ‘less stupid’ if we didn’t read other people’s stuff that was actually less stupid than ours?”
I had to think about that for a minute.
“You know, I think you’re a genius, Anne.” I said.  “And I’m very glad you’re my partner.
“Thank you, Ken.  I’m glad you’re my partner too.”
“So the answer is ‘yes’, right?”

I think writers must also read to keep from becoming stagnant in their own writing. I find a many ideas from other peoples work, as well. Even if its just one line to inspire the thought, or maybe a different tangent maybe leading to another multiverse. I think every one sees just a little differently what's on the page, inspiring them to further and greater heights with their own stories.

Thank you again for visiting us and keep reading and we'll keep writing (and reading)

If you have a question or comment you’d like us to muse upon, do not hesitate to contact me Christine Steeves-Speakman  at


Marsha said...

Well, Chris, the link worked and this looks great. I love Marilyn's quote: Reading is not only decadent escape, but professional development. Ken and Anne, I look forward to hosting you on my blog; you are a delightful couple. I'll FB and Tweet. See if we can't pick up some visitors. :) This is all too good for folks to miss.

ChrisChat said...

Totally agree, Marsha...and glad the link works after the earlier glitch :)

Go MUSE Family!


Unknown said...

All these reasons are good but I think the most important reason we must keep reading is we must remember why we write. It is so easy to get caught up in the mechanics of writing and lose sight of what we love about the written word. Reading keeps us as readers. It allows us to wrap ourselves up in someone else's words and feed our souls and remember why we write. After all we are professional writers so we are writing for an audience. We can't lose sight of this audience.

ChrisChat said...

Agree, again, Viola :)

I love losing myself in a book. And sometimes I just can't help but "write" myself into the storyline as someone else.

Which leads me to's not write what you know, but write what you love and lose yourself in as well.

Then again, it's always the story's world and words.


Unknown said...

It's not write what you know. It's write what you want to know. My heroine in the Mark of Abel is an artist and art appreciation teacher. I love art and could easily handle her classroom scenes. I needed to learn how to paint to handle the crucial scene where she paints. I love history so I created past lives for her that I would have to research. It was all things I wanted to know things that got me excited about writing

ChrisChat said...

I like that idea. Too many times over the years I've heard the statement...write what you know...that always seemed so limiting to me :)