The Reader

A man will turn over half a library to make one book.

~Samuel Johnson

What’s the number one tool in the writer’s toolbox? You guessed it … his library.

Read, read, read. Read published books. Read literary criticism. Read book flaps and synopses. Read things you don’t like (often – it will break you out of a rut). Look up words you don’t understand in the dictionary. Join a reading group in your area. Read the New York Times book reviews.

Deconstruct the things you’re reading. Analyze the point of view. Why did they choose first person? Who is this all-knowing narrator who keeps popping in to make those annoying omniscient comments foreshadowing things to come? Can I trust this narrator? Keep track of plot and pacing. Make unseen connections. Buy the Cliff’s notes and actually do the homework lessons.

There is a solitary, quiet concentration required to finish a novel that mirrors the writing process itself. Good writers are, first and foremost, good readers – they understand the rubric of their genre, when breaking a rule is acceptable … and when it’s a grammatical mistake. A good writer understands the elements of great literature (even if they’re writing in the most restrictive of genres) and uses them accordingly.

And after you’re done reading for the day, go sit down in another solitary corner and write.