“If you don’t have time to read, you don’ have the time or the tools to write.”
– Stephen King ‘On Writing’
Whether you want to be an author of books or a writer for magazines, heed the advice from Stephen King (above).
Let’s say you are interested in writing books. Then you need to read the type of books that interest and engage you as a reader. If you are interested in mysteries then read some of the popular mystery writers. Read for pleasure, but also read to study the style and how information is incorporated into the story without taking you ‘out of the story’ – the typical ‘show, don’t tell’ scenes. If you have a favourite author, study their writing style to see ‘why’ you like this writer. Is it because the storyline pulls you right into the story; do you like the ‘rhythm’ or ‘cadence’ of the words? It doesn’t matter what genre you like to read, take the time to read and study. When you see a phrase that resonates with you, copy it down to study later on.
A few years ago, it was my pleasure to introduce Canadian fantasy author Charles de Lint at a writer’s workshop at a local university. I spent several hours writing that introduction; polishing it until I was satisfied. You see, I am a huge fan of Charles de Lint and wanted to convey how his writing made me feel. Here is a portion of that intro:
An imagination that can reach beyond the boundaries of reality, where ‘magic’ happens and supernatural powers really exists is the foundation used by most contemporary fantasy storytellers. If you want to be a writer of magical fantasy, then you must have an imagination that is unrestricted by reality.
When does a person lose the ability to believe in magic? The magic of imagination where our best friends are invisible and the tooth fairy really does visit, or Santa Claus really exists? Has it been drummed out of us by parents, teachers or others telling us to “stop daydreaming” or to “grow up”. So where do the magical creatures of our imagination such as fairies, elves, manitou, the little people or wizards dwell when we become too old, or too cynical to believe in them and their magic anymore? The answer is that they dwell in the imagination of writers who have not lost the ability to dream, or to reach beyond the boundaries of reality.
If we are very lucky, as readers we get to re-discover them in books written by authors like Charles de Lint who has not lost that magical imagination. In books like Moonheart, Spirit Walk and so many others. Books that bring alive the magic of imagination – in a book like Moonheart that is so popular it is still in print after almost 30 years.
I was ‘over the moon’ when Charles and his wife Mary Ann Harris asked if they could pass along my introduction to his publicist for future use. You see, my words not only as an author, but also as a fan had touched them. And that is what writing is all about – connecting with the reader.
I’m a voracious reader. To me, reading is like writing – I can’t live without it. I find new authors through recommendations from other readers, authors, or just Googling a phrase or searching publishing houses to find the latest books. Of course, I also have my favourite authors bookmarked on my browser.
Most people pick up a novel to be entertained or read a newspaper, magazine or book to learn something. You as a writer need to connect with the reader and in the process entertain them or provide the information they need in order to learn something. Write the story or article that you would want to read.