“Perhaps the greatest benefit of reading novels is that it gives writers a sense of how it should be done. They show us how to create effective dialogue, narrative and characters, as well as how to place flashbacks, insert tension and atmosphere and how to maintain tone and pitch to sentences. By analysing how they have set out the story, you can learn from this and adapt your own writing.”
–A. J. Humpage, All Write Fiction Advice
I’ve always maintained that the best way to be a good writer of fiction – or of anything else, for that matter – is to be a good reader. I just don’t see any other way. The more you read the more you can imagine, the more you can imagine the broader the expanse of your universe, the broader the expanse of your universe the more you have to draw on as a writer. Nothing feeds the fire of imagination like the flames generated by another great imagination.
On average I read at least two to three books per month, oftentimes more. Sometimes fiction, sometimes non-fiction. Anything from the history of the Brooklyn Bridge and the Life of Lyndon Johnson to Clive Barker, Stephen King, and Walter Mosley. That’s not including the magazines I devour as well, including Atlantic Monthly, Columbia Journalism Review, The Nation, Asimov’s Science Fiction, and Fantasy and Science Fiction. Plus the New York Times, and the local media. I’m pretty sure that’s about it.
OK, so maybe I’m a bit obsessive. Maybe I even need to get help. But I’ll tell you what; the one thing I have never suffered from is writer’s block, and that’s the truth. When I sat down to pick up where I left off writing both “The Mayonnaise Murders” and “Fire and Wanda”, after having put both of them down years ago, it didn’t take nearly as long as I thought it would to dust off the imagination and wake all those characters back up so they could tell me what was supposed to happen next.