Writing Advice: Change Your Reading

http://lagemoyen.blogspot.com
http://lagemoyen.blogspot.com

In the past, I’ve written on this blog about the virtues of reading while working on a writing project. Guided reading can lend you insight into another author’s process and techniques. Reading can also help your writing in a more general way. I feel very strongly about the connection between reading and writing, and I feel that my own ear for language can be credited to the many books I read as a child and the books that I continue to read as an adult. Aside from process, technique, and general help, I think that reading can also affect the style in which you write.

Recently, my big reading project has been to complete the His Dark Materials trilogy by Philip Pullman. I just recently finished reading them, and I really enjoyed all three. However, I think that they were having an unintended impact on what I was writing. As much as I love and enjoy reading Philip Pullman’s style, it’s definitely more formal than anything I typically write. The dialogue that he writes is particularly formal and doesn’t always read naturally to me. Reading that formal style was causing me to feel blocked in my own writing project, which is nowhere near as serious as Pullman’s books. When I sat down to write, everything that came out of my brain felt more serious in terms of tone.

Now that I’ve finished Pullman’s trilogy, I have moved onto something else on my shelves — The Paying Guests, by Sarah Waters. Waters writes in a much more conversational tone and takes care to make her fictional world relatable in some way. Her dialogue, in contrast to Pullman’s, sounds like something real people would say, if a bit cleverer. As soon as I got into this, her latest book, I noticed that my dialogue was flowing more easily and my writing didn’t seem as difficult as before. I was surprised by it at first, but it makes sense that what I was reading would have that kind of affect on my own writing.

So, if you’re feeling blocked or if you feel like what you’re writing doesn’t sound like your typical work, try changing up what you’re reading. What you’re taking in through a recent read might be filtering into what you’re writing, even if that’s not what you intend.

Happy Writing!

— Jet Fuel Blog Editor, Mary Egan

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