If you’re a writer, you must read. That’s the one piece of advice that’s universal – every writer you meet will tell you that reading widely is key to developing your writing skills. And I completely agree.
What you aren’t warned, though, is that reading to improve your writing can make you an incredibly fussy reader.
I already considered myself a demanding reader with pretty high expectations, but then my own novel was professionally edited ready for publication and my discernment jumped up to a whole new level.
Currently, my Kindle is bursting at the seams with samples that I’m not going to take any further (why don’t they have a simple button that says, ‘Nope, this isn’t what I’m looking for,’ to clear the decks?). Adverbs leap out at me, begging to be taken away from the pain of propping up weak verbs or the indignity of being entirely redundant next to a well-chosen, strong one. Paragraphs slide into sentence after sentence of telling instead of showing and my eyes skim forward to see how long the torture’s going to continue.
So I put down the unsatisfactory book and go back to writing – and wonder who died and made me God, because look at that horrible passive construction, and do I see a frivolous adverb adding nothing to that sentence over there? And for everything I can see I know there are half a dozen errors my brain is kindly glossing over for me.
But I guess that proves how valuable reading is for a writer, because if I hadn’t seen all those errors in other books I wouldn’t be able to find them in my own. I might be missing mistakes, but there are at least fewer than I started with.
And I can still read for enjoyment – it just takes a bit longer to find a book that won’t rouse my inner editor.
It’s shaping up to be a beautiful day today, just right for relaxing with a book in the garden. I’ve got high hopes that my recent library visit netted me several things I can relax and simply read rather than tutting throughout. Wish me luck!