What Reading Gives Me as a Writer – Cidney Swanson

What Reading Gives Me as a Writer

First I was a lover of words. Then a lover of books (because books are word-holders!) Then a lover of writing (because I could make more word-holders–an unending supply!)

So, for me, the reading came before the writing. It doesn’t always come first anymore, but I can’t imagine being a writer apart from being a reader. Reading gives me so much more than just a story. I learned grammar from reading. (It was out of fashion during my decades in California public schools.) Which means that I learned how to construct sentences correctly, and how to know when I’m breaking the rules for effect. (See how I began my sentence? And see how I abused that poor comma?) During times when I’ve had “grader of papers” in my job description, I always felt like I could peg the readers and non-readers by how well they constructed their sentences. So, if you want to write better sentences: read more.

In the years when I get through a hundred books, there are usually six or seven that really stand out. Last year I only read around fifty. (Sixty?) Three stood out. I pay attention to the ones that really stand out because they are the ones that teach me about story-crafting. I go back through them with post-it flags and mark the sections that do certain things well. I study these things. How did that writer keep me turning pages even though it was waaaaaaaay past my bedtime? How did that writer make me laugh? Cry? Throw the book across the room? (Less tempting with a Kindle, I’ll admit.)

Reading makes me love my job. My job is writing stories. I love thinking of Tolkien and Lewis saying to one another that there weren’t enough of the kinds of stories they loved to read, and that they had better get busy writing the kind of stories they wanted to read. I think others have said it more recently in a “write the story you want to read” kind of prescriptive way. In any case, when I read a stunningly good book, it makes me want to tell a good tale. It makes me willing to spend the hours (long) to do the work (impossible-seeming) of making books to hold words that enchant and delight and sometimes, maybe, wear down the hard edges that life gives you.

What has reading given to you, lately? Tell me in the Rafflecopter below. One of you will win a set of my books in Kindle version!

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9 Replies to “What Reading Gives Me as a Writer”

  1. Reading gives me a lot of inspiration for my writing. Since, I'm writing my first novel and reading has made it a world better by letting me pull things from different books. Thanks for the giveaway, I would love to read your books.

  2. Sorry, I didn't answer the question.

    I LOVE your intro to this post! It kept me on the page.

    P.S. Reading gives me knowledge … and adventure!

  3. Janeira, that is so cool! Keep writing.

    Z, Good ones! I'm always glad the adventures happen in my head instead of my real life. 😛 And I am so glad you could relate to those first sentences. They're from the heart.

  4. Speaking of reading, I have two YA novels awaiting my return to fiction. They're written by this very cool woman that I met in Big Sur. 😉 I've been obsessed with non-fiction, and when I'm reading these works I find ways to rework, reshape, and reinvent my life. Fiction does this, as well, but what I love about all of it is that the "messages" can be different for every reader.

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