I know for me and my schedule it can be difficult to fit in several hours of reading a week, but that doesn’t mean I don’t read. I find alternatives and you need to as well.
Successful writers will tell you that if you want to become a better writer–you must read, read, read. This is more true than you may realize.
It means taking your writer brain and exercising it by reading other styles, vocabulary, and sentence structures. You’ll be able to read how other writers put words together–it really is important to do this.
By reading, you learn the craft and intrinsically internalize techniques, skills, and approaches that resonate with you and your own writing. It’s like studying a painting–the strokes and artistry speak to you and you learn from them.
Now, I’ll be the first to admit I don’t get (or make) enough (formal novel) reading done. It can be difficult simply due to time but also inclination. Let’s face it, it takes time and commitment to sit down and read a book from cover to cover. Sometimes, I don’t feel like reading a long drawn out story and other times you can’t tear it out of my hand.
One thing I know for sure is I need to read to keep my writer brain engaged and clicking.
So what else can you read beside committing to a 300 page novel? Well, here are my top five.
This is a great alternative to reading books but know that the language is often a little more casual than you may expect. but you can still learn a lot.
There are blogs on anything and everything. Do a google search and see what you come up with. I do two blogs. My Twisted Writer Brain which is all about writing and the writing life and Auntie Says… which is all about common sense advice and opinion to young people.
I have a lot of fun with each and enjoy exploring different topics, considerations, and opinions.
Explore the different blogs and see what you can find. The reading is normally quite simple and friendly. It’s enjoyable because you chose the topic and can chose to engage or with the writer or not with a ‘like’ or a short comment.
Audio Books–These are a great alternative and can be listened to while gardening, exercising, walking, shopping etc. I didn’t think I’d like audio books but find they stimulate a different part of my brain. The active listening is a good skill to excercise and it’s not so daunting as trying to hang on to a huge book.
I often fall asleep listening to an audio book. I’ll set the timer for 30 minutes or so and then always have to go back to the last few minutes from the night before. The stories can be soothing or disturbing but I still fall asleep.
I use both Audible or Apple Books and love the diversity of literature available in audio. There are short stories, podcasts, and novels all of which can inspires and assist in my quest to become a better writer.
Children’s or Young Adult books:
Have you ever read James and the Giant Peach? or Green Eggs and Ham? These count as reading and are simple and rhythmic in nature.
The lovely thing about children’s books are they’re short and the words are simple. If you’ve ever considered writing a children’s book then you best start reading them.
And don’t discount Middle Grade (MG age: 9-12) or Young Adult (YA age:13-18).
Some of the best stories come out in these genres though I may be bias because I love to write YA. There are many ‘issues’ books available that adults will relate to–things like bullying, teen suicide, or drug use.
Or how about Harry Potter? or The Hunger Games or some young adult book outside of your preferred genre? There’s fantasy, science fictions, dystopian, romance–so many. Maybe try a shorter version in a YA category. Who knows, you may learn something.
There are fantastic gritty reads that are short and quick. Take a look at Lorimer books which are Canadian teen books, about 25 thousand words, and tension filled. Great reads.
Magazine and newspapers:
When was the last time you visited a book store or library and actually read a paper magazine? There’s something about the slippery glossy pages with the bright ads and pictures that’s alluring. Try it.
Contrast that with the dry scratchy feel of newsprint. There are many newspapers still in print. From large city press to small town community news letters. You can read whatever articles or sections you want–if it’s all sports, it’s still reading.
Pay attention to the different styles and length of the articles. Maybe you’ll be inspired to write an article or editorial–check to the submission guidelines and go for it.
Read What’s in Front of You:
Just the other evening, I read the back of my wine bottle–it was described as fleshy and mellow. It had a great story attached that was short and enjoyable. I was intrigued and inspired by the language used. That counts as reading as it got me thinking about the region the grapes were grown in, the harvesting, and the story woven about this particular vintage. The person who wrote the copy for the label was very talented.
Read your Facebook or Twitter–sometimes there can be some great stories on social media. Be careful you don’t get sucked down that dark hole of nothingness when it comes to social media because it can be more of a time suck than anything…
… or perhaps a series of poetry, short stories, or flash fiction. You can google any of these things and find very good examples on line. You can also visit your local library or book store to find examples of poetry and short story collections. Try your hand at it while you’re at it. It’s harder than it looks.
Maybe you need a how-to book/site if you’re feeling a bit lost. If you’re feeling lost and in need of book in the butt maybe you need to read Stephen King’s On Writing which is an enjoyable peek at King’s life and the craft of writing. Or maybe you need to peruse some sites like Jane Friedman who writes about writing and the publishing industry. Either way you’ll be reading and moving in the right direction.
The whole thing is that you must keep yourself and the writer brain engaged and busy. The writer brain is constantly seeking to read, learn, and observe–don’t disappoint it!