Read When We Write

Do you find that your writing is at its best when you’re reading a book at the same time? Do you read in the same genre as you’re writing? I find that my writing is at its prime when I’m reading as well. This would make sense because I went through a long dry spell and now that I think about it, I wasn’t reading anything.

So before I go and dive into this, if you’re reading something as you write, be sure of 3 things.

  1. DO NOT rip off the writer. Being inspired by writing is one of the best tools we as writers can use. Even if you don’t downright plagiarize, it’s not right to rip off from writers.
  2. Make sure what you’re reading specializes in what you think your weakness is. Dialogue. Read a story that has rich characters and each one has a clear personality that shows in their dialogue. Too many stories die and wither from bad and unbelievable dialogue.
  3. Lastly is narrative. If you’re writing is weak on narrative, just like dialogue, read books that have long and meaty narratives. I always struggled with detail and narrative while my dialogue thrived. So I started reading books with long paragraphs of details and narratives. As soon as I began, I saw my writing improve before my eyes in just the first writing session.

Are you writing a love story that includes heartache and raw feelings? I’d recommend reading any one of the following: (Most of these are available on Amazon for absurdly cheap prices)

(No spoilers I swear)

 

I’ll Be There by Holly Goldberg Sloan
This fantastic story is unknown by way too many. It’s a tender story of two brothers (Sam and Riddle) from a broken and dangerous home. They find comforting arms and a warm home in teenager Emily Bell’s household. The story thrives on hard situations with a violent father, and the love Sam has for his brother and the life his new interest – Emily has. The story sucks you in and carries you on each page.

 

The Promise of Stardust by Priscille Sibley

Tears have never been so close to my eyes because of a book. Matt Beaulieu’s wife Elle suffers a terrible injury and is left brain dead. The catch here is that he finds out she’s pregnant. Through this struggle to keep her body alive there are unexpected challenges that appear that will test both Matt and your heart. Flashbacks in this novel are key as they show the couple younger and allow you time and pages to grow close to both Matt and Elle. This story remains in my top 10 – maybe I’ll make a list sometime.

Are you writing fantasy?

I’m not too versed in this field of writing but I do have two recommendations.

The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss

There’s a reason critics tell readers to shelve this next LOTR and The Hobbit. Kvothe (pronounced Kwothe) is a simple boy traveling with his family as a traveling circus. One day he finds his parents and his entire troupe slain. The culprit? A group of people that are thought of as fictional fairytales. His only answers are at a place called The University where they teach magic, but not the cheap “abracadabra” magic. It’s well thought out magic that happens in the mind. This book which is book 1 of a trilogy is good for everything. Narratives and description that rivals any book I’ve ever read and dialogue of equal value.

Need a short story for narrative value?

The Slow Regard of Silent Things – By Patrick Rothfuss

Yes same writer. However this small novelette ranging just over a hundred pages takes a side character from his trilogy and spends a few days with her. Auri is a cute, innocent girl who cracked. She isn’t mentally sane and sees the world in a different light. You don’t need to read his others to understand this. All you need to know is that she lives underground beneath a school and is gathering different items to make a gift for her friend. The entire thing is ALL NARRATIVE. Pages of description of rooms, chambers, pits, wells and everything in between. If you’re not a fan of fantasy, don’t be afraid to give this a chance because it isn’t fantasy at heart. It’s a story of a girl who sees regular items commonly discarded as something special. It’s truly an interesting read.

Are you writing horror?

Horns – Joe Hill

You may not recognize Joe Hill by his penname, but you may recognize Stephen King’s name. Joe Hill is Stephen King’s son and let me tell you, he made his way into horror writing not by being King’s son, but by writing damn good stories.

Ig Parrish’s love of his life, beautiful Merrin Williams is dead; brutally attacked, violated and killed. The town believes he did it no matter what he says. After some drunken night to which he remembers almost nothing, Ig wakes up and has horns on his head. With these horns come influential power over others. He sees into their lives like a peeking through a window and can tell them to do things. This novels covers dark comedy, murder mystery, supernatural, romance, let’s just say it  covers everything and covers it well. This is one to read a few times, and then maybe watch the movie (which was actually pretty good).

Let’s go to the King.

The Girl Who Loved Tom Gordon by Stephen King

Have you heard of this one? Because it’s not like other King novels. Trisha McFarland is a young girl who is forced to go hiking with her dysfunctional family. After taking a few steps away from the path, she is lost with no idea how to get back. She’s not in a small wooded area either. She’s lost in the Appalachian Trail. In addition to being a survival story, King weaves a sinister plot line with something watching little Trisha from afar. She can hear it growl, she can hear it move around her but she can’t see it. This shorter novel (speaking in terms of King’s usual length) is a smooth and creepy read.

Other very honorable mentions

This Is Where I Leave You – Jonathon Tropper

Do me a favor and read anything by this great writer. Every story he puts out, he creates a new story that mixes heartbreak, nostalgia, humor and some of the richest characters you’ll find in writing. Just do me a favor and read the story before you watch the movie…or don’t watch the movie at all.

This Bright River – Patrick Somerville

This lovely story is also in my top 10. Being my only exposure to Mr. Somerville, I’m not sure why I haven’t picked anything else by him. This book is about a tortured protagonist who has a dark history. He runs into a woman from his past with a terrible life as well and the two clash and mix. It’s a dark love story that travels through family secrets, possible murders and worse things still.

That should about do it. Thanks for reading, and feel free to comment what you like to read when you write, or what you’re reading right now.

Thanks,

Zac Zinn

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2 thoughts on “Read When We Write

  1. I’m always reading this or that. Genre sometimes overlaps what I’m writing. More often than not, I find myself borrowing from the author-I’m-reading’s voice/style. Which isn’t always a good thing.

    • Definitely. I actually found myself the other day naming a character who is a jerk Wayne when a character in a book I was reading, who is also a jerk named Wade.
      It’s amazing how we mirror other writers

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