Remembering to Read

Absolute Blank

By Lisa Olson (Boots)

I read all the time. Twitter feeds, Facebook posts by the hundreds, forum posts, blogs, and emails. All day long, I’m reading something. It’s usually short, but informative. I take in a lot of facts, funnies, inspirations, and news.

As a writer, I’m learning to be brief. I’m learning how to write in fewer words than ever before. Learning how to read and absorb information and extrapolate facts from small blurbs and quotes. Learning how to get my point across without embellishments.

A co-worker started reading a book series that had been made into a television program. Because I knew the program, I was interested in the book and asked her how she liked them. She said it was her second time to read the series, which is twelve books long, and while she did watch the television show, the books were impressive, vastly different, and far richer than it could hope to be.

Talking to her, I realized I hadn’t read a book in well over a year. I tried to remember the last book I’d read, and I couldn’t. I tried to remember why I’d stopped reading and realized that I was “too busy” reading the quick and easy posts and tweets to spend time on a novel.

Background Image: Max Lakner/Flickr (CC-by-nc-sa)

As a child, I would use books to escape reality and slip into worlds of magic and beauty. I would carry them with me everywhere and was ridiculed for having them. I would become so engrossed that I would skip meals and forget to go to bed on time and work the next day as if I’d spent the night drinking.

Another friend and I discussed the series of books one day, led there by discussing the television show, and she said she would send them to me. Expecting this to be a long time, I was surprised when a box full of the series arrived at my door. I eagerly took the first one and started reading. As I moved along in the first book I remembered what I had been missing.

The rich world of the written word is very different from the small blurbs we’re bombarded with each day on the Internet. I had forgotten how much fun it is to become immersed in a good story. As I’m reading, I’ll back up over passages I liked and read them again. I’ll savor a superb word, a handy turn-of-phrase, or take the time to draw the scene in my mind. I find I’m engrossed in the characters, the situations, and the world of the author.

As a writer, I find I’m also looking at it with a critical eye, too. I’ll read passages that didn’t sound right or that had an unexpected angle and go back again to try to find what was different and why. As a writer, I’m looking at what worked and why, and analyzing the word choices and differences in vocal presentations from each character.

Because it’s a series, I also have the opportunity to return to a previous book to refresh my mind on what came before. I can look at how the author got from one point to another and try to see his pattern and thought process. I look at his plot points and philosophies as they move from one novel to the next and try to guess where the next one will come in the book I’m on.

I found myself looking at what the author had to do to sell the series. How he had an idea for the first book which carried into the second and then changed drastically for the third. I lamented about his constant repeating what came before in the beginning chapters of each book… and how it’s rather annoying to read, since it’s longer each time, but I understand that he needs to do this in order to sell the book as a standalone.

As a writer, it’s important to read books and stay current. To know what is selling in your chosen field or genre and to see what new ideas are out there. You can read anything, of course, and be happy and enjoy it while still keeping the writer within happy. My editor with the Big Red Pen is happy to find a typo or a missing word anywhere, in any novel. She’s equally happy drawing a big moon, a forest, and a guy with a sword.

Keep your inner editor happy and read something. Grab or download a new novel that was released this week. If that’s too much for your busy life, there are great pieces showcased here at Toasted Cheese and many other online magazines. Heck, just pick up an old favored friend and take a trip down memory lane. Take your writing self on a little reading vacation!

Lisa “Boots” Olson is currently reading the Legend of the Seeker or Sword of Truth series by Terry Goodkind and is on book 10 of 12, Chainfire. (There are actually more than this and he adds them all the time.)

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