Here’s another one of those odd coincidences: It was January of last year that I did a post on James Salter who wrote one of my favorite novels, Light Years, and who in July of 2004 at the Tin House Writers Workshop told the audience: “I don’t read for pleasure anymore. I read because I want to see how they did it.”
When I heard him say that and again when I wrote the post, I thought how sad.
Although I still think the idea of not reading for pleasure is sad, now I understand.
Writing this blog has made me a better writer because I have learned that just writing, “I like this sentence,” doesn’t tell my reader very much. What is it about the sentence that I like–its use of detail, its word choices, its rhythm? Still, my starting point is generally a phrase, a sentence, or a paragraph that I underlined while I was reading.
I knew I was supposed to look at the books I liked to see how those writers were doing what they were doing so I could learn to do it too. I even developed a collection of books–fiction, not craft–that I refer to when I’m writing. I thought I was reading like a writer.
And I was, but I was just beginning to overturn the stones…
Other posts in this series:
Part 1: Reading like a writer
Part 2: Taking it to a new level
Part 3: Questions to ask
Part 4: Reading a story
Part 5: Taking a story apart