Thursday, August 23, 2012

Guest Post--S.M. Boyce

I'd like to thank Boyce for dropping by today to talk to us about the importance of reading, especially when you want to be a writer.  Stay tuned for a great post!

S. M. Boyce writes fantasy and paranormal fiction. She’s a sarcastic twit, but she still has friends because some people seem to like that. She is currently working on the Grimoire Trilogy. Lichgates, the first in the series, is already available and its sequel is due this fall. Feel free to connect with her online or check out more about writing on her blog.

A quick thanks to Christie for letting me steal her blog for the day. I’ll return it in roughly the same condition I found it. No promises. J

For those authors out there who like debate, I’d like to discuss an important component of developing one’s writing style. Not too long ago, a writer on Twitter told me that she barely ever reads, preferring instead to simply write. I cringed and bit my tongue.

Thing is, you can’t be a great writer if you don’t read far more than you write.
I usually try to avoid absolutes. I mean, there’s always bound to be an exception, right?  While that sentence proves to be a paradox, let’s move on to the core issue here: can a writer excel if they don’t prolifically read?

I say no. Ever.

We as writers can’t improve if we don’t learn from other authors’ successes and failures; thus, why reading is so important. Though getting feedback on your work is a necessity (don’t publish without an editor!), there’s only so much a writing critique circle or even a professional editor can do.

I’ve studied the craft and even have a shiny degree in Creative Writing. That doesn’t mean I’m an expert or anything, but I did learn a lot in my classes. The best prompts I was ever given involved analyzing the techniques in short stories and discussing how I could use them to better my own writing.

Most writers have encountered that prompt before. It’s been around for ages, but it’s a classic, and here’s why: the more you read, the more you learn. In each book you read, you encounter new techniques, character archetypes, styles, and voices. The more of these you come across, the broader your perspective becomes. With a broad perspective, you will naturally develop a relatable voice.

Transitive property for the win! Or something. I’m not that great at math anymore.

My default setting is to analyze techniques and style as I read. I look for cases where the author breaks the rules of writing and dissect them to see if it was a success. I watch characters as they evolve and look for their defining characteristics or quirks to see if it’s something I can emulate with my characters. I look for stylistic choices that work and cringe when they don’t, making mental notes all the way. When I see something that failed, I push myself to think on it until I can make the leap between failure and success.
While dissecting my reads does diminish the natural bliss of simply reading for pleasure, it has taught me a lot about my own writing. Every book I read is a lesson.

So what about you? Are you shaking your screen right now because you think I’m crazy wrong, or do you maybe agree? How often do you read? Are you a read-for-pleasure sort of person, or do you dissect the books you come across?

Thanks for having me, Christie! I’ll do my best to stick around and check out the comments. I’m looking forward to hearing everyone’s thoughts.

Boyce is a fantasy and paranormal fiction author who likes sarcasm and cookies. You can find her books on Amazon and Barnes & Noble.

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Good to have you here, Boyce.  I hope you'll drop by again.  I absolutely loved Lichgates and I was lucky enough to get in on the beta stages of Treason, the second book in the Grimoire Trilogy.  I liked it even better than its predecessor, and that is saying quite a bit.

Happy Reading Everyone



  1. Great post! Very good points! Reading is so important.

  2. I disagree somewhat. I find that when I am writing, reading material that doesn't fall into the category of research, actually can be detrimental. It can serve as an outside distraction and subconciously influence your style. I have been surprised how many other writers also stay away from major reading while writing. Sure in down time, between projects, READ. While working, be careful. You are right about needing an editor.

  3. Thanks for your comments, Kayla.

    And, Jett, I think this just goes to show that every writer is different. We all need to find out what works best for us and sometimes that means trial and error.

    I know writers who swear by writing while listening to music, but for me sometimes that can get too distracting. Sometimes I need absolute silence. Yet other times, music is exactly what I need.

    I agree that reading can be a distraction if I let it, but it can also allow my mind to breathe for a minute if I'm in a tough spot.

    I think the important thing, at least for me, is to not stop reading completely when I'm writing because I'm always writing. lol. If I stopped reading to write, I wouldn't read anything. I usually have a set time that I read and write.

    I'm not usually one for TV, so I seem to have plenty of time for both :)

  4. Thanks, Kayla!

    And Jett, while you have a great point that reading can influence your style, I have to agree with Christie's comment. This might not work for you, but it works for me. And on that note, being influenced is also kind of the point. You can learn from that reading and improve yourself.

    Also, if I stopped reading while I write, I'd never read either. I can't stop writing. Limiting myself to reading during my downtime and between projects would mean I'd probably get about a month of reading total in the year.

    Thanks for your input, everyone!