Reading is an important part of writing. There’s no getting around it. Whether it’s for enjoyment, to learn about marketing or your topic, or to learn about your genre, reading is important.
One of the greatest things you can learn from reading, regardless of your reasoning, is structure. Reading is like learning a language. The more you immerse yourself in it, the more you can repeat it back. Reading means that you can immerse yourself in writing, and eventually, repeat the important aspects of it back. Even if you don’t know that you’re studying the structure of a story, of a nonfiction piece, a poem, a novel, a script, etc., you are. When you read widely, you’re picking up the various ways a piece of writing is put together, which instinctively helps you to construct your own piece of writing.
With this in mind, it’s also beneficial to read the how-to’s of your genre as well. And read a lot of them. Because, and here’s the secret:
Reading about the Art
Because writing is an art, and art is prolific and abundant, there’s no box that fits it all in. You can’t mold your art to fit into one bod. When people write a how-to book on writing, they have to be specific enough that they’re going to reach a target audience, but broad enough that they’re going to sell a lot of books on the topic they’re writing about.
Thus, if you are looking for a book on how to accurately portray the effects of PCP-laced coffee on the Himalayan dung beetle and a culture that views this as a form of divination, you’re going to struggle. (Note: I have no idea if the dung beetle can be found in Himalaya, and I find it unlikely that a culture would have developed around it as the drug was created in a lab in the ‘50s).
However, by reading widely, you can learn the parameters of what you want to write, structurally and stylistically, or be pointed into some fun directions to experiment with.
The Book Club
To help encourage the overwhelmed writer who is looking at the thousands of books on writing and has no idea where to start, I want to create a monthly book club.
In this club—which is free and the only thing you need to pay for is a copy of the book of the month—I’ll announce a book a week or two before the month begins, and break down the book in four increments each week. What is discussed for each week will vary each month because it depends on the book being read.
My aim is to start an open discussion in the comments, as well as to invite folks to email me with any questions that weren’t addressed in a segment.
Likewise, I welcome books suggestions for upcoming months as well.
I will announce the first book in a separate blog post than this one, and begin posting the segments of the discussion on the first Tuesday of the month, and we can go from there.
This might change as time goes on and I get a feel for what works for people and what doesn’t work for people. The nature of art is fluidity, and thus, discussing art does not need to be a strict structure, but can be equally fluid. Though, I will try to keep to some form of structure.
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