The Well Read Write Well:
The art of good writing is found in the quality of your reading. I’m sure you have heard this one before. This is an open secret and one of the most important tips on becoming a successful writer. Please pay full attention to the details of this secret. It is an absolute must that you read, read and read. In the words of Stephen King, “If you don’t have the time to read, you don’t have the time or the tools to write.” This is the most critical step in the learning process of becoming a good writer.
Put away your writing plan for the moment and get started by making a list of what you are going to read. Unfortunately, reading commercial novels is not going to help you much. You must read the classics. The mind adapts to its environment. It is equally influenced by a positive or negative milieu. Cultivate your mind with the writings of the masters. You read 19th century writers not because you want to write like them but because you want to be successful like them.
I would recommend that you read the works of Charles Dickens, Leo Tolstoy, Feodor Dostoevsky, Henry James, D. H. Lawrence, Edith Wharton, Graham Green, Somerset Maugham, Jane Austin, Oscar Wilde, Emily Bronte, Thomas Hardy, Evelyn Waugh, Ernest Hemingway, John Steinbeck, and Homer, as well as others celebrated in the field. Several online resources can help you determine which books and authors you would like to read. Below are a few examples of such sites:
Like writing, reading is an art too. Casual reading is for entertainment. Passionate reading is for a higher cause—learning from the masters. Read these authors but not as a routine task. Study them with passion and an eye for detail such as how a plot is developed, how characters are formed, how the story moves forward, how conflicts are developed and resolved, and most important of all, how emotions are expressed and made to come alive. Technique is all about ‘how’ and that is what you need to keep in mind when you are learning the art of writing by reading. And reading alone is not enough. Make an effort to evaluate their works in order to build your own resource library. This will be an ongoing exercise in building your foundation as a writer.
Try reading about four to five books of each of these authors. Variety within (for every author goes through a variety of phases in his or her life) an individual author and amongst the diverse group of writers will yield a plethora of writing skills. Remember to follow the rule of VALUE (Variety in Authors for Learning and Understanding their Expertise). Yes, I agree that it is a lot but all this hard work will pay handsome and long-lasting dividends. Don’t let the media hype make you believe that the path to successful writing is easy and it lies in some clever software or a set of three DVD courses or by spending three days at a retreat resort. Work at it and work hard. Find notes on these authors and read them too to see what motivated them to write. Good writing comes from one’s heart and must be in sync with one’s mind. Great writing comes from the soul.
Successful writing requires passion, perseverance and patience.
I am going to give you an insight—nineteenth century masters did not write fiction. That’s right. Their “fiction” was based on events from their own past or on the people they knew and places they visited. They did this because they knew that the best way to tell the truth is through fiction. Here is a tip that will help you with your reading without costing you a penny. On the net, go to amazon.com and search for ‘classic on kindle free’ and you will find most of the classics of these authors for free. Download them to your Kindle.
So, remember the secret that the ‘Well Read Write Well’: believe it, act on it and start reading now.