Writing & Publishing Tips: Reading and Writing by Connie Smith

Posted November 22nd, 2013 in Guest Post, My Features, Writing and Publishing Tips / 12 comments

Welcome to my feature, Writing & Publishing Tips. You’ll be seeing this new feature between twice to four times a month. Here, writers and readers alike can learn firsthand knowledge about writing and publishing from various authors (and occasionally me). I hope you enjoy, and never hesitate to ask questions.  

For today, please welcome Connie Smith. She is here to tell us how important it is that writers are also readers. Reading as much as you write is beneficial in your writing technique and so much more.

Reading and Writing
 
by Connie Smith


I’ve heard that reading makes you a better writer, but I’m not sure some people even understand how true that statement is, or why it’s true. Vocabulary is a main reason you hear for the connection, and while I won’t say you won’t learn a new word or two by reading, to me it’s one of the least impressive consequences that reading has on writing. Of course, everyone who talks about reading being intellectually good for you isn’t specifically talking about writing, but the benefits are pretty priceless. Let’s go through some of them, shall we?

What Not to Do

Let’s be realistic. People like different types of books. When going through a ton of potential book review sites, I came across a reviewer who wouldn’t accept fantasy, and I automatically did not understand that person. I doubt there’s anyone who likes every genre, and there is no book in existence that I’m aware of that everyone conclusively likes. I mean, come on. Small Gods by Terry Pratchett got bad reviews. But, from my perspective, you should write a book you would want to read. You can’t please everyone, but at least your book will honestly be you and you can be happy with it.

As you read, you learn what types of things you like as a reader and what you can’t stand. As an example, I hate, hate, HATE when dialog in books reads wrong and leaves me thinking, “People don’t talk like that!” This may seem obvious, but herein is a lesson I use when I write – make characters talk like actual people. Some characters sound more sophisticated than others – Nicholai in The Division Chronicles is fairly eloquent – but that’s a personal difference. If you’re writing about a couple of teenagers eating pancakes and talking about a midterm, “I was fearful I would fail,” just doesn’t cut it. Make it sound like they would talk: “I just knew I wasn’t passing that thing…”

You can take this to other aspects of writing as well. Battle scenes, emotional problems, smaller details – you get from the books you read ideas of what you like and what you don’t. You’re learning what makes a good book – to you – and what doesn’t. If you hate what an author has done, that’s a warning to you to write differently.

This can spill over into the opposite line of reasoning – writing what you do like – but leave that in a general approach. “I like books with humor, so I’m gonna put some funny stuff in this novel!” rather than “I like that joke – let me use that joke!” That’s plagiarism, and the legal system is not amused.

Pace

I cannot tell you how important this is to learn. Some books you read are so rushed that you barely feel like you know the characters at all before the story’s over. Others are so slow-paced that you find yourself wishing someone would’ve cut out a couple hundred pages and just gotten to the point. Either option is bad, and it’s a careful balance between the two.

Honestly, this is something I really worried over when writing Essenced. There are a lot of characters introduced in the book, and I was torn between ‘what if I’m rushing through and you can’t tell who’s who’ and ‘what if I’m rambling and things are too slow’ through a good portion of it. Had I not learned what worked for me and what didn’t in the books I’d read before, I might not have stood a chance.

This might be just as important as your plot, to be honest. If you take too long getting into the thick of things, your readers lose interest. If you hurry through it, they may not care so much about your characters. I can’t stress enough the potential of reading and learning from authors who got it right – and the ones who got it wrong – to help you find the ability to pace your writing. Learn how they did it, or figure out what they did wrong.

What to Leave Out

This leads to another point – what needs to be said and what doesn’t, which falls back into affecting your pace. I don’t need to know every single second of your characters’ lives, and it’s completely okay to skip days in their existences in the story. Not everything is noteworthy enough to make it to the pages. It throws off your pace, and takes attention from what’s really important.

If you’ve read your share of works, there’s a good chance you can relate to this. I recently read a book – I’ll be nice and not give a name – that would unnecessarily see a character through a few days of her life, the actions of those days so pointless that more than one day could be covered in less than a page. If that’s the case, there’s a day that doesn’t need to be addressed, or maybe only addressed in a ‘just the day before…’ type of thing rather than walking her through it. This is something you can learn while reading, noting in your mind what the author could’ve done differently.

While reading, you might find yourself thinking, “I didn’t need to know that,” which in turn can make you think – while writing – if a reader will be thinking the same thing. What you find yourself pondering while reading can reemerge while writing, leaving you to question what’s going on in your novel, short story, novella, etc. with much more care, helping you weed out what’s unnecessary. Another lesson learned by reading.

Characters

As I’ve said before, characters – in my opinion – make a story. If I don’t care about the character, the plot loses something (since I don’t care about who’s going through it), and if I do care, the plot can be ridiculously simple and I’ll still be entertained. This is another skill that reading can help you with. How to introduce a character, develop a character. How many details are too many, or what would be too skimpy. What precisely you can’t tolerate in a character.

One of my irks in reading female characters is when a book has a woman that everyone just falls for, as if she’s the most beautiful thing in existence. I hate that. Everyone has different tastes, and inevitably there’d be someone on the side going, “Eh, she’s alright…” Knowing that, having learned it from reading, I try not to deal with my characters in that manner.

This is useful in a much different way if you’re a fantasy writer. Reading then can give you a plethora of species and mythical creatures to choose from when penning your own work. LOTR, for example, could introduce a person to elves, dwarves, hobbits, orcs, wizards, wraiths… You learn your genre by reading your genre. You learn what works best and what doesn’t, and each little lesson in your mind can alter your writing just a bit for the better.

For Me Personally…

I didn’t read very much in high school. I read fanfiction (and sites like fanfiction) in my early college years, but to sit down and read a book? In high school, I’d hated most of the reading assigned, and it wasn’t until my brother loaned me The Dark Elf Trilogy by R.A. Salvatore – and I eventually caved to read it – that I fell in love with books and remained obsessed. I wouldn’t be the writer I am without that.

And, in the end, when you’re editing, you’ll be doing a good deal of reading. So you might as well get used to it!

Author Bio
Connie L. Smith spends far too much time with her mind wandering in fictional places. She reads too much, likes to bake, and will be forever sad that she doesn’t have fairy wings. And that she can’t swing dance. When she isn’t reading or writing, there’s a good chance she’s goofing off with her amazing, wonderful, incredible, fabulous nieces and nephew, or listening to music that is severely outdated. She has her BA from Northern Kentucky University in Speech Communication and History (she doesn’t totally get the connection either) and likes to snap photos. Oh, and she likes apples a whole big bunch.

Website | Blog | Twitter | Facebook

Check out her book Essenced!
Amazon | Goodreads

Years ago, demons were forced out of the earth’s realm by a band of supernatural fighters, banished from the place and its people in the aftermath of a horrific war. It should’ve ended there – would’ve – if not for the final demon’s claw snagging on the open portal. What felt like victory became only a reprieve, the winning warriors understanding that the tear would spread, and the demons eventually would escape exile. It was only a matter of time, and a need for future defense – a question of genetics and essences, magic and power.

Now, centuries later, a new army must bind together – one of teenagers with inhuman potentials and abilities…

AJ went to bed Sunday night an average teenage girl, clumsy and athletically lacking. So when she wakes up Monday morning with super-strength, she does what any rational person would do: She goes into denial. When a smoking hot guy in a suit shows up, rambling about the end of the war and demons spilling through some kind of rift, she refuses to listen, telling herself he’s insane. Except weird things just won’t quit happening, and the guy keeps popping up in her life, trying to explain the changes suddenly happening within her. Is she crazy, or is this guy… not so crazy after all?

Guest Post, My Features, Writing and Publishing Tips

, , , ,

12 Responses to “Writing & Publishing Tips: Reading and Writing by Connie Smith”

  1. Melanie

    I am in complete agreement, to be a good writer, you have to read a lot. I like writing in my spare time and I always find the dialogue really hard to get right, but after reading many books, I notice it becomes better each time.

    Fabulous post! <33

  2. Julie S

    “Some books you read are so rushed that you barely feel like you know the characters at all before the story’s over. Others are so slow-paced that you find yourself wishing someone would’ve cut out a couple hundred pages and just gotten to the point. Either option is bad, and it’s a careful balance between the two.”
    THIS x 1000!! So agree. Thank you for this post. Sharing 🙂

  3. emaginette

    I read all kinds of stories: short, long, good, bad, whatever.

    You’re right there is something in each one. I do admit though, I learn more from the best-selling authors and I kind of cross my fingers that some of their style, skill, etc wears off on me. 🙂

    Anna from Shout with Emaginette

  4. Jaclyn Canada

    LOL I love the legal system will not be amused. Definitely agree with picking up on things that you like while reading and humor, characters, and pacing are sooo important. I also feel pretty strongly about dialogue fitting with the characters. Wonderful post! Jaclyn @ JC’s Book Haven.

  5. ~* Connie L. Smith *~

    Thanks everyone for the comments! I’m glad a few of you could relate. And thanks to Jennifer for letting my post make it to the blog 🙂 Reading definitely helped prepare me to write!

    ~Connie

  6. Elisa

    Great post! I read just for fun so it is actually interesting to read posts like these because I am now pulling my head out of the fun zone to recognize what those authors are doing 🙂

Leave a Reply