Possible rambling, stream of conscious post to follow.
Occasionally, I will hear writers (usually, one about as far along the journey as me) say, “I don’t read anymore. I don’t have the time.” I can certainly see how this is possible. Especially, for a writer, that is also balancing a full-time job and family responsibilities. But, it still makes me sad.
And it reminds me of some days early in my writing journey. Not that I’ve forgone reading…because I’ve always read. Rather, when I’ve stopped reading for pleasure and began reading critically. Back then I was “learning” all the rules of writing. Reading a lot of writing books. Some good…by writers who had the backlist to back up what they preached. Some not so good by agents or gurus without much experience at all writing fiction. So then when I was reading, I would catch “head-hopping” mid-scene. OR god-forbid the writer “told” and didn’t “show.”
This was miserable. Reading critically, may actually be more horrid than writing critically. And that is saying something. Not to mention being a pessimist sucks.
I’ve broken myself of this habit. It wasn’t easy, but I read for pleasure again with exactly zero thought of craft. I just read a lot. I think its the most important thing I can do outside of butt in chair. And if I really enjoy a story? I may re-read it to see what I loved so much…or I may re-visit a memorable passage. More likely? I’ll just remember the book, and if/when I am struggling with something in the craft OR there is just a technique I want to try out in a story, I’ll return to the stories I’ve loved and and see how the experts did it.
For my money, this is almost always better than trying to learn it from a writing book. And it IS always better than following some Style Manual.
When I want to learn something about dialogue, I re-visit Mr. Parker’s Spenser novels.
When I want to learn how to write in depth about setting, Mr. Burke is there for me.
He’s also good for techniques when telling is better than showing.
Brevity without losing your voice, Mr. Block… or Papa.
But it’s only done with stories, I’ve already read and enjoyed. If I never get anything out of a story then
the simple pleasure of reading it, that’s enough. There’s plenty of education in an entertaining story.