Sunday, September 9, 2012
1 Amateur Mistake to Avoid!
Guest Post by Sarah Webb
To quickly spot an amateur, ask them what they’ve read lately.
A serious writer will have trouble answering because they’re currently reading so much--books, newspapers, magazines, literary journals, blogs, etc.
A writer merely dabbling in the practice will have trouble answering because they haven’t been reading.
One of the worst mistakes amateurs make in their writing careers long before they ever start typing is not reading enough.
Just how important is reading?
According to Stephen King, “If you want to be a writer, you must do two things above all others: read a lot and write a lot.”
Did you catch my emphasis? The reason so many amateurs are flooding the market with bad stuff is they’re doing a whole lot of writing but not a whole lot of reading.
Even though advice from Stephen King, one of the most prolific and well-paid authors ever, should be fairly sobering, I’ll tell you why it’s actually good advice.
• Karma (or Reciprocity). Writers write so others can read. Only a selfish, narcissistic, and arrogant person would expect the world to read their writing without being compelled to read someone else’s. Surely that’s not you.
• Cultivate a Love of Written Language. The more you read, the more you’ll discover a passion for written language. Without passion, your writing, career, and life will implode.
• Malnourished Minds Don’t Work. Reading offers ideas, inspiration, and opportunities to stretch your imagination and creativity. It’s an excellent remedy to writer’s block, if you believe in such a thing.
As promised, here are five ways you can avoid this egregious, amateur mistake and build the professional writing practice you’ve always dreamed of.
1. Reading about your craft.
Books on writing, like Stephen King’s, are not only excellent examples of well-crafted expository writing, but they offer practical advice that will help your writing and career in tangible ways.
2. Read about your niche.
If you have a niche blog, or you’re working on stories or poems based on a particular topic, make sure you consume tons of material on that subject.
3. Read broadly.
Venture outside of your niche. Read about anything remotely interesting-- good, bad, man, woman, child, scientific, funny, famous, foreign, local, classic, or contemporary. There’s strength in diversity, you learn from everything, and you may enjoy something you didn’t expect.
4. Read deeply.
To really get the most out of reading, read like a writer. Study the author’s choices, technique, style, and organization. Analyze. Question. Reread. How’d they reel you in? How’d they end?
5. Read a lot.
You must repeat items 1-4 as often as possible. Every day.
The defining characteristic of an amateur is lack of experience. Other than writing a lot, the fastest way to boost your experience and knowledge of written language is to read a lot.
So, what have you read lately, and how has reading been a part of your writing practice?
Sarah L. Webb is teaching college writing in Louisiana, working on a collection of architecture poems, and blogging about books on writing and other off topic issues at S. L. Writes.