NaNoWriMo: Read, Read, Read and then Write, Write, Write

Category: Writing

"Like most—maybe all— writers, I learned to write by writing and, by example, by reading books. "

- Francine Prose


So read, read, read and write, write, write. That’s my writing advice. Job done. Tick.

In the past I have found it frustrating when I have plucked up the courage to ask well known and loved writers their advice for writing and been told I just need to WRITE. It makes you look a bit silly and foolish for asking. But it’s the best advice, along with being told you should be reading. A lot.

This is because writing is a craft. It is learned. To be good at it, you have to put in the practice. Writers are not born writers just as pilots are not born pilots (though give me a bad book over a bad pilot any day). You have to put in the hours. And these hours consist of reading and writing. Reading is part of your writing, or as Stephen King so eloquently puts it:


“If you don't have time to read, you don't have the time (or the tools) to write. Simple as that.”


I've often fooled myself into thinking that reading is a luxury, for when I’ve done my writing. But if you are a writer, reading is essential and counts as part of your writing day. So spend time reading books you wished you had written, spend time reading books in the genre in which you are writing and spend time reading books because you love them (if you don’t love books, you shouldn’t be writing anyway).

And then write. Write about anything that comes into your head and put it on the page. Don’t be afraid. Don’t worry about what it looks like (you can sort that out later). As Margaret Atwood says, "if you strive for perfection, you’ll never write a word". Writers are creative people, and creative people do not think in straight lines. (But the publishing industry are sneaky and pretend writers do). Although a writer’s notebook may have a shiny cover, I bet the contents are a little all over the place. Doodles, scribbles, crossings out. So write horizontally, write upside down, write on your walls (ask permission from your homeowner first), just get it written. And once you’ve done that, read some more (sleep is for wusses).


Tomorrow: Writing is not for the faint of heart.  

Megan Primrose

Megan Primrose is SBT's Writer Development Intern.