Well, being an avid reader you are sure what all you want to read, but what should you consider reading when you are a writer? There is no single answer to this. To be frank, read everything you enjoy. Whatever you read is useful, be it - newspapers, magazines, novels, technical papers, economics, history, literature, science, spiritual, etc. Nevertheless, there are certain points you can keep in mind while choosing to read, especially ‘for’ writing.
Let’s start with something interesting - Be an Adventurer!
There is an ocean full of books, authors, and genres available to read. Some may interest you and some may not. An average reader or a writer may stick to a couple of genres or authors. There is a chance that soon, his/her style starts following the same pattern, and remain no longer unique. So, to excel, to have an edge in your writing, it’s good to explore. Be an adventurer! Swim in different waters.
No need to go on looking at the ‘top books to read’ lists in each genre, especially as you may not be a connoisseur of that genre, but give your reading experience some new tastes. If you read some four or five books a month, give at least one book, not part of your ‘To Read’ list, a chance every month. Some ways to do this could be:
[Please note: The number of books you read could vary, and don’t worry if it’s not four or five per month. It’s just that, being a professional writer, it helps to have a good reading appetite. So, if you aren’t reading a lot at the moment, slowly, aim to build your appetite]
· Walk into a store or a library and browse through the available collection. Pick up a book randomly, say, because you liked its title or the cover, or because the book intrigued you in some way. Go with your gut feeling, without researching about its reviews, or being very conscious about the author (familiar or unfamiliar) or the genre.
· Walk through the alley of a genre you have seldom given a chance. Take that chance, travel that alien mile, and pick up a book which you feel like ‘at least’ having a look at.
The best part of doing this activity is that you don’t have the book on your ‘To Read’ list, so:
· You don’t have a pre-conceived notion about what you are going to read
· You don’t have great expectations from it
· It’s a mystery, a surprise as to what you are getting into
· You could find a hidden ‘written’ treasure and end up thinking ‘Why isn’t this the best book ever?’ Well, it may or may not be, but it could be one special book that connected with you or your feelings perfectly! And consciously, you would have never come across it, maybe because the author was not that well known, or it wasn’t of your preferred genre.
· In case after reading for some time, you don’t like it, you could very well drop it. It was anyways, not on your reading list. And remember, it still wasn’t a waste of time. Reading is never a time-waste. You are a writer, and you take a learning from it – ‘What went wrong with the book!’
In fact, many times (of course, not always) I have found it so interesting to stumble upon some unknown author, to find a wonderful piece of writing, that I ended up reading quite a lot written by him/her later. I have my list of ‘To Read’ books, but I make it point to leap out of it, at-least once a month, and choose an unfamiliar author or one not much heard of by me, or a new genre which I have not much read before, and give it a shot.
Next, keep some books around which make you feel positive, and boost your confidence. These could be spiritual books, biographies of people whom you look up to, inspirational or self-help books, the stories of hard work, success, victory, or even failures - anything that motivates you to put in your best.
I would not recommend any particular book, author, or genre here because it’s a very personal choice, and everyone is inspired by quite different experiences. Hence, choose whatever suits you the best.
You would have heard that it’s nice to know the grammar of the language you want to write in. Yes, it is, and howsoever boring it may seem, this is one thing you should consider. It definitely improves your writing and makes it impressive. Once you start with it, you’ll be amazed to see yourself, suddenly, writing like a ‘Pro’ and it is, indeed, a confidence booster when your own writing impresses you.
Keep a good grammar book handy, to refer to, browse through, and to consider whenever in doubt. No need to memorize each and every topic or do it as a course, but make it a habit to flip to various sections and read through the rules and guidelines given, every now and then.
Some tips as to how you can go about reading and learning the required grammar, without having to painfully take it as a burden:
· Dedicate a few minutes to grammar just before you sit down to write, or just after your writing session.
· Make a note of a rule or a guideline and ensure to use it in your forthcoming write-up. This not only helps you learn the rules, but how to apply them too. So to say, their practical usage.
· Make a note of a rule and try to see where you have broken it in your previous write-up. This helps you re-read your write-up in the light of ‘grammar’.
· Try to think of a way to accommodate the noted rule in your previous write-up. This step would help you polish your write-up, improve it, and make it impressive.
· Try to read, understand and enjoy the rules, rather than simply memorizing them. If possible, dig a little deep to find the basis of the rules. You’ll be amazed to find tales around the rules, as to why and how they came into existence, and why they make a sentence, phrase, etc. better.
There could be many other ways you could take this up, and you could come up with your own creative techniques to make it interesting, but the important thing is, keep ties with ‘grammar’, it helps!
Some books I could recommend for English Grammar are:
· Eats, Shoots & Leaves: The Zero Tolerance Approach to Punctuation (By Lynne Truss)
· High School English Grammar and Composition (By Wren & Martin – H. Martin, P.C. Wren)
· Practical English Usage (By Michael Swan)
Help Books on Writing:
Once the writing is not just your passion, but also your bread and butter, it’s good to consider some good books or courses which help you write better. These resources, aid you with various styles and techniques of writing, hone your writing skills and bring it to the next level. Not that it is mandatory, but if you get time, it could be worth your while. There are some quite excellent books in the market for this, and you could search for your specific genre’s help books to aid your writing. Some suggestions for your consideration could be (But not limited to):
· On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft (By Stephen King)
· The Emotion Thesaurus: A Writer’s Guide to Character Expression (By Angela Ackerman)
· Letters to a Young Poet (By Rainer Maria Rilke)
· Self-Publishing In the Eye of the Storm (By Karl Wiggins)
· The Elements of Style (By William Strunk)
From the Editor's desk