Read to Write

Every year I take the Goodreads pledge to read twenty-four books. This year, I finished with sixty-one books. This is a new record for me. I’m actually going to end with sixty-two as soon as I get to the one sitting on my to-be-read stack, but I’m also kind of a stickler about not counting a book until it is absolutely finished. You never know what could occur during the course of my day to prevent me from completing it. I wouldn’t want to offend the Goodreads gods or something.

I’m sure I’ve said it on my blog before, but I’m going to say it again: if you want to write well, you must read well.

Let’s start with quantity first. Get your hands on everything you can and read it. Books, articles, newspapers (do we still have those?), fiction, non-fiction, read inside your favorite genre and outside your favorite genre. Read, read, read.

There are going to be people who tell you what the best is by labeling it classic, best seller, or some other tag to entice you. That’s fine, give it a whirl. Remember, though, that the final decision is yours on whether or not the book deserves such high and lofty praise. Keep in mind, however, that good writing can occur even if you don’t care for and/or disagree with the piece of writing (fiction or non-fiction), so analyze every aspect of what you’re reading before bringing the hammer down on a particular work.

Now let’s talk about quality. The more you read, the more you will expose yourself to the good and bad in writing. Very soon you’ll be able to discern not just what appeals to your reading tastes, but what lends to the foundation of good writing. Again, this will only occur if you crowbar yourself out of your reading rut and into the vast libraries of the world. Keep in mind that the popularity of the book/how well it was received, the money it made, shocking subject matter, being written by someone the public did not expect, and the tale being turned into a movie are not factors by which one should judge the writing.

I’m not going to include the research, data, or links to posts about how much smarter one becomes by reading, but it’s true. It just is. Your vocabulary and knowledge will increase, and at the very least, you’ll spark new interests and have something worthy to discuss with other people.

So, I challenge each of you reading this to set a goal for the quickly approaching new year and get to reading. Take a moment to let me know in the comments what you read this past year, what you loved, what you hated, and why. Word of mouth is often how I find my next great read.

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