Read Like a Writer

I went to SFARWA’s monthly meeting today. As always the ladies are awesome and inspiring and a well of information I tap every chance I get. (I meant that I tap their well of information, not the ladies themselves! Ha!) The camaraderie alone is enough to make me run–not walk–to those meetings. If you aren’t involved in a writing or critique group I can’t emphasize their importance enough. Find one. Jump in with both feet. Trust me. The knowledge you gain is invaluable.

On to today’s guest speaker! Barry Eisler graced the group with his presence. His new book Fault Line is going to be great (like his others, I’ve heard) and I can’t wait to bend back that binding and delve into the world he’s created. (After I finish my own, of course!) Not only was he really approachable, he had many words of wisdom for an unpub like me. (Or maybe I should start calling myself a “future pub”…yeah, I like that better.)

The best of his advice was “Read like a writer”. I’ve found since I started this crazy writing journey that I can’t read the same anymore. I dissect sentence structure. I analyze plots and subplots. I break down characters, thinking about why something works for them. Or why it doesn’t. Reading has lost some of its sparkle. I thought it was just me.

(Don’t get me wrong. I LOVE to read. I LOVE books. And I always have. I wouldn’t be writing if i didn’t. It’s just that I’m a completely different reader than I was before I started writing. Other writers, feel free to weigh in or disagree…)

Eisler believes this is the way it has to be. It’s the way we learn to make our own writing better. His advice to writers wanting to learn their craft is to pick up their favorite book and find their favorite passage, then figure out why it’s working for them. The same goes for what doesn’t work, of course, and that may in fact be the most telling piece of all. Why do you put a book down after a page or chapter read? What takes you out of the story and makes you go, “Eh.” And why isn’t this the same for everybody?

I didn’t realize I was doing this already…it was a comforting feeling to know that although I’m not multi-published (yet) and not on any NYT lists (yet) that I’m perfecting my craft and heading the right direction. (I’m trying my hand at this positive self-talk thing…I think it’s working. Now if I can just get this darn Universe to get in line. *grin)


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