Friday, December 31, 2010

What Will You Read in 2011?

It's New Year's Eve. Thoughts of broken dreams of 2010 and hopeful plans for 2011 are postponed as you watch the ball drop in Time Square, share a glass of something bubbly or grape, or wriggle to a powerful beat at a countdown party.

The next day, however,  you scratch the surface of a brand new year, wanting to make this one better, cleaner, more worthy. While you're pondering resolutions for your writing, don't forget your reading goals.

How many books did you read in 2010? Did you read your genre? NYT bestsellers or indies? Fiction or nonfiction, or both? Can you list them? Remember the authors?

Some people keep a book journal, a bibliofile, writing down daily what they are reading with thoughts on quality, flow, characterization and lesson. Most of us don't. But you know about how many books you read, right? At least a dozen, I hope.

OMG, you say. That's a lot of books. Yes, it is, but not really. Not if you're a writer. You live by the written word. You can't write well without studying good writing. Without learning what works, what flows, what makes a story twist, turn and capture the AHA moment.

I have a little saying about reading and writing.

You'll read a hundred times more words than you write;
write a hundred times more words than you'll keep; and
keep a hundred times more words than you'll publish.

I used to say ten, but have learned that number is grossly underestimated. We write better the more we read. Then the more we write, the more we learn to read like a writer, watching for choice phrasing, amazing plot, quirky characterization. We keep a notebook handy, noting grand sentences we wish we'd composed. We dog-ear pages and highlight passages. It's hard to enjoy light reading, because you are too busy trying to understand how the chapters came together in the author's mindseye.

Reading makes you a better writer.


You know all those lists that happen in January? The best seller lists, most read lists, the books loved most by this group or that group? If you're like me, you glance at them and wish you'd read several. . . or more. What about all those classics you've missed?

When you're making those well-intended New Year's resolutions for your writing future, include a list of books, authors, and genres you'll read for self-development.

Without the need to read, you lose the right to write. Make 2011 all about the words, in more ways than one.

Happy New Year!

9 comments:

anjie said...

What a great post! One of my favorite things to do at the end of each year is take inventory of the books I've read (I've kept a list for 20 years) and look over my huge list of books I'd like to read. Thanks for reminding me that all those books make me a better writer.

Today I'll finish Nicole Krauss's novel, Great House. Wow. The history of a desk told from the perspectives of multiple narrators. Complex and creative.

Madeline Mora-Summonte said...

I keep track of the books I read during the year and note which ones I didn't care for, liked, loved etc. I did a blog post about my absolute favorites -
http://madelinemora-summonte.blogspot.com/2010/12/my-favorite-reads-of-2010.html - and I love to hear what books and authors others discovered.

I discovered some new/new to me authors who I now can't wait to read their next books (or their old ones!) I also read some books that made me see my own writing in a new way.

Happy New Year of Reading and Writing!

Susan said...

Hello Hope...Thoroughly enjoyed your post today. Great idea to WRITE DOWN the books I read this year. I like that idea very much. I'm an avid reader. My living room library shelves are bulging. Books are one of my major obsessions and one that I don't want to purge! ha! Hope you have a super new year. Thanks for all your wonderfully informative posts throughout the year. Susan

tbbotts said...

Hope,
I sure enjoyed this blog post. I learned to write down the books I've read from my mother-in-law. I keep them on index cards in a recipe file.
I also wanted to give you an atta-girl on your FFW web site. It's always full of helpful information. Keep up the good work. Best wishes for a prosperous new year.

Sioux Roslawski said...

Writing down what we read is a great idea. And you're right. Writers must be voracious readers and as they read, they study the craft so they can "steal" a strategy.

Laura Townshend said...

If only I had time to read more! I tend to stick with writing books, self help and other non-fiction. My daughter is a voracious fiction reader...I look at her books and drool.

Hope Clark said...

You have to read books like what you'd like to write. If you write fiction, read fiction.

Michelle said...

Hello!
Love this post...
Love to read :)

Terra said...

These are wise words. I have about 30 books that I purchased that await reading in 2011. I just completed Shadow of the Wind, now that author's words have wings.