These three things are inextricably interlinked for me. When I am reading a story I love, I feel most inspired to write. And, I like to think I’m aware enough that I don’t fall into that trap of writing like what I’m currently reading, which I hear/read so often from writers – ‘I don’t read anything while I’m writing a novel in case it subconsciously influences me’. Which is fair enough, but I do think that reading is the best way to learn about writing, closely followed by writing (see below for my justification of this!). And if you want to get published, then it’s even more vital that you know what is already out there, what is selling and what the conventions are, whether you intend to follow them or not.
Now, to qualify that off-hand comment about the best way to learn to write … This is, of course, just one woman’s opinion, but I think that reading extensively provides you with the basis for any learning you might do through writing itself. Before I ever attempted to write myself and before I ever had any formal teaching on writing, I read. As a child I lived in imagined worlds more than I lived in the ‘real world’ (and if I had my own way, I probably would now, too). This meant that when I came to write and to learn about story I had an instinctive understanding of structure, character, dialogue and so on. It wasn’t perfect, but it was a basis. It meant that I could think of examples of the kind of scene or plot I was trying to write or that someone else was trying to teach me about. It meant that somewhere in the back of my mind a voice said that you needed tension and climaxes and resolutions long, long before I ever read about those things in ‘how to write’ books.
Reading was the underpinning for the rest of my learning about writing. I cannot stress the importance of it enough. (Plus, if you want to write and be published, then buying and borrowing books from the library is a great way to support your industry.)
If you want some more writing tips, here’s an interesting article from The Guardian – Ten Rules for Writing Fiction. (And yes, I need for work on number 5 – me and my addiction to exclamation marks!) I got the link via the often funny, ever enlightening Nathan Bransford. He does a fantastic post on the week’s happenings in publishing – if you want to be published or work in the industry, you’d be well-advised to read it! In fact, just subcribe to his blog and read it all – you’ll find something useful, I promise!
And if you were wondering where the start of this post was going – it was further praise for Robin Hobb. I am loving Ship of Magic like a great big obsessive weirdo. I know I am loving it that much, because I find myself thinking about it when I’m doing other things and I am constantly looking forward to the next time I get a chance to read it. And as it’s lunchtime, that’s now.
(Though, before I go to eat and read – if you have any recommendations along the lines of ‘if you like Robin Hobb, you’ll love …’ I’d love to hear them. Indeed, any fantasy recommendations with good female protagonists always go down well with me!)