A writer is not just what he writes, but also what he reads. Reading shapes the writer’s attributes, including their style, language, execution, etc.
Before one can attempt writing, one has to read a lot. This exercise is essential for both the language and the subject matter, for together, both define a good book. But what is the right reading? How does one choose the correct material that will help them become the writer they aspire to be? Here are some tips that might help in that direction.
1. Read a Lot to Identify the Genre
There is a genre you love to read, and one you love to write in. The chances are that both will be similar because reading is the best way to imitate and get to writing. But in some cases, one’s reading and writing interests will differ. So it is better to attempt multiple genres initially to see what works best, and the first place to start is in trying to imitate the genre you love reading.
2. Find Books in the Type you Like to Write
Some people like elaborate sentences. Some like brevity. As a writer, it is important to see which style would suit one in the long run, and try a mixture of it all until a particular style fits. To do this, a writer must attempt to read a variety of books in their favorite genre. This helps to see how well the subject is conveyed in every type of writing. Does the long sentence structure suit the subject at hand, or is it better phrased as short ones?
3. Keep a Clear Head about the Core Genres
Research, as such, is fascinating. Many a time, a writer gets distracted by the sheer availability of the material in that genre, and they start reading books which might predominantly be in one particular genre but also touch upon other important subjects. As readers, it is incredibly easy to get fascinated by the auxiliary subjects and divert one’s attention to them. But it is always important to remember that the reading is done for writing-related research, and one should keep their focus on that.
4. Dissect the Writing you Read
The primary difference between reading for pleasure/knowledge and reading for research is that the former focuses only on the content and then imbibes information that the said source provides, while the latter is more about focusing on everything else as a package too.
When you are reading for research, focus mainly on the writing, because it is equally, if not more, important when compared to the subject. Dissect every word and the way it is written and also how the words are combined into phrases, which then become sentences and paragraphs.
5. Identify the Core Emotions Conveyed
For any subject matter, a particular writing style is chosen because the writer has decided that this is the best way to convey their thoughts and expertise on the subject. But this also means that they will infuse their style into the work, and the reader has to see why it works (if it does). This can be analyzed quickly by the emotions in the phrases. The really good ones evoke the reaction they are supposed to get from the reader.
For instance, a well-written thriller book should manage to keep the reader engaged and not veer towards too much disclosure in the name of detailing. The main aspect of this genre is to keep the interest alive while giving barely enough information to retain the readers and (either discarding or) giving the rest of the information nearly at the end of the book if absolutely necessary.
When actively looking for it, the reader will know the exact point at which the interest dips, and the pace slackens. And this is where reading with a research-oriented mind helps. There may also be cases when the books are executed with such perfection that every word of every line is important. This is where the writer in every reader has to focus on what each phrase made them feel, and how it helped them enjoy the book.
6. Discard the Genres that do not seem to Work
Don’t stagnate with a genre just because you feel you want to write in it. This is especially important if you feel a dissonance between something you love reading and your actual lack of clarity when you attempt to write in a similar manner.
Be quick to discard whatever does not work, instead of slogging at it. The frustration always leaks out into the entire process, making the writer wary of the experience of writing itself, resulting in what is famously called the ‘writer’s block.’ As quick as you have to be in identifying what you love writing and what feels natural to write, you have to be quicker in discarding the ones that do not seem to fit in, without wasting further time in that regard.
7. Incorporate Subject and Relevance in your Life
No matter how old a subject material is, or how abused the genre is, there is something new for everyone in everything. Ordinary stories with predictable plotlines have been made extraordinary by the simple virtue of exemplary writing.
And to get to that level, the first aspect is the relevance of the subject. Keep your subject relevant to the current audience. Or better, choose to read a subject with timeless relevance. Use instances from your own life and that of those around you, and inculcate current events to find the relevant material to read. It is important for every writer to stay in the game. And to do this, one must surely read the material that has some significance at their personal level and relevance at the readers’ level.
8. Read up on your Contemporaries
Once you have decided on the genre and have done enough research material to be sure of what you want to write, read up on the works of your contemporaries. This is different from actually reading the subject material available for long (which were probably written by experts), in the simple meaning that the contemporaries are the ones who have the relevance factored into their writing.
A case in point would be the mythology genre. To research in Indian mythology would mean to read the original epics which you want to base your writing on, maybe the Valmiki Ramayana or the Mahabaratha. But to actually read contemporaries would mean to peruse the works of the current writers who are giving their own interpretations of those great epics.
9. Look beyond Structured Subject Material
Inspiration does not come only from books and structured material. Sometimes, a single spark that is required to ignite an idea may come from a picture, a quote, or ideation discussions with like-minded people. Reading research begins and ends with what the writer wants to read, and the source hardly matters.
Making writing fun is the first step. Reading research should not seem like a daunting task or something to be done with customarily before embarking on the writing journey. To add the fun element in the reading is vital to ensure that the interest never wanes, and the writer is able to produce material with substance.
Dhivya Balaji is an Engineer turned Editor. She is the founder of Precis Penning Literary Services, through which she hopes to ease the stress of authors by providing an array of services.