I'm sorry folks, but if you are serious about writing, I believe you have to be rather serious about reading too...
When I first outed myself as a wannabe writer I was a bit rubbish. The desire to write was overwhelming, I'd read a lot all my life (although I realise now for many years I was obsessive about a small number of books rather than tackling a wider range), and I'd been playing with words for years. But my stories were pretty much lifeless. Looking back it's easy to see I still had a long way to go to write something publishable. Now when I talk to new writers I still advise them to read a lot of books. That is where you learn your craft. And to a certain extent this is true. You can't help but consume a lot of well written sentences, a lot of correct punctuation and hopefully a good dose of creative word play when you read. Some of it does soak in and helps you write in a logical, readable manner. All those wonderful books that were my best friends growing up taught me and inspired me. But it took me a long while to learn how to read in a way that would transform my sensible sentences into a strong voice with something truly interesting to say. The change wasn't a conscious decision. I don't remember experiencing a shift in how I read. Well maybe I do. My first assignment for my Children's Writing paper when I worked my way through my English degree back in the 90's required me to read closely a passage from two set books. The BFG by Dahl and Rowling's Harry Potter and The Philosopher's Stone. Subconsciously I had always appreciated the 'voice' of certain writers, without actually putting a name to it or wondering how they might achieve it. But to meet the demands of the assignment I picked apart the unique qualities of these two writers and in doing so liberated my own voice. It's no good to just pick your brain, you actually have to scoop it out with a spoon and throw it at the page. Metaphorically of course.
In the beginning, imitation is a good way to get started in finding your own voice. Imitation and a willingness to let go. This isn't recommending purple prose (a.k.a the presence of a thousand adjectives), this is about collecting words and turns of phrase that have impressed you as a reader. How or why did they work? How can you use the same techniques - metaphor, POV, imagery, symbolism, rhyme, rhythm, allieration etc...etc...etc... Experiment. Don't be afraid to fail. Some of life's best inventions (including stories) were meant to be something else. Finding your own voice takes practice. And it will continue to evolve. Be brave. And remember, writing is a conversation with your readers, not just listening to the sound of your own voice.
So my advice to new writers isn't just to read a lot of books. It's read a lot of books, select the ones that really spin your dials and ask what it was about those books that flipped all your switches and how did the writer do it? Because, as a writer, if you aren't asking the questions, how will you find the answers??
Educational Resource: A Winter's Day in 1939
- Educational Resource: The Were-Nana
- Educational Resource: The Half Life of Ryan Davis
- Educational Resource: Made With Love
- Educational Resource: The House That Went to Sea
- Educational Resource: A Winter's Day in 1939
- Educational Resource: While You Are Sleeping
- Educational Resource: The Song of Kauri
- Educational Resource: Fuzzy Doodle
- Book List - Complete List of my Publications