Inside a Writer's Mind

Inside a Writer's Mind
“To live is the rarest thing in the world. Most people exist, that is all.” -- Oscar Wilde

Monday, 18 July 2011

On Fiction Writing (and Reading)

Stephen King, in his excellent book, On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft, talks about the importance of reading for an author. Specifically, he makes the point that if you want to write, you can't afford not to read. And, he offers a suggested reading list near the end of the book. What struck me when I first scanned this list was the variety of novels included.

It seems that a varied diet of reading matter is as important to an author as a regular (preferably daily) routine of putting pen to paper (or finger tips to keypad). Having spent a number of years collecting books about writing, I have noticed this point is made in many of them. And over the years a number of writers I have spoken to, or heard speak, have also mentioned the importance of reading.

If you are reading this and thinking that's pretty obvious, I agree, but I think that what's not so obvious, initially, is that reading as writer is somewhat different to reading purely as a reader—or it should be.

For a start, as a writer when you read, you need to be analysing, or at least taking into account, the way the writer has used language to take you on a journey. You need to ask questions: How have they have used the building blocks of fiction: words (especially nouns and verbs) and sentences (simple, complex, compound, fragments)? What decisions have they made regarding choices of setting, narrative voice (or narrative point of view), character construction and development, story and plot development, and style (including use of simile and metaphor)? What are the effects of these elements individually and collectively?

The writer’s decisions determine the quality and nature of your journey as a reader. And so it will be with the choices we make, so we need to be sure our choices are informed.

So read, read, read…

And keep writing.


  1. I totally agree! It just seems that analyzing as I read takes SO MUCH LONGER. Sigh.

  2. You are right Peggy, it does. I wish I had a short cut for both of us. Thanks for commenting.