Disclaimer: I don’t profess myself as a great, even a good, writer. I’m learning to be a better writer of romance day by day. I just want to share what I learn, with the hope that you can get something good out of these too. Sharing is, after all, caring.
I hope you’ve read Pointer # 1 before coming to this article. If not, you can read it HERE first. It’s very important, so don’t miss it!
Now we come to Pointer #2 in writing romance novels. For this one, I’ll have to quote the great American writer and Nobel Prize laureate William Faulkner (September 25, 1897 – July 6, 1962):
Read, read, read. Read everything —trash, classics, good and bad, and see how they do it. Just like a carpenter who works as an apprentice and studies the master. Read! You’ll absorb it.
Have you guessed what Pointer # 2 in writing romance novels? You got that right: Read romance novels.
You may ask, why? Some would rationalize that the reason they started writing was because they want to produce something they want to read, so why read other’s works when they could read their own? Still others would say they have no time to read, being busy and all.
But reading is an important step to becoming a good writer. Writers need to be readers. If you are serious about writing, you should be a dedicated reader. If you want to write well, read well. If you do not read, no amount of grammar guides, writing tips and inspirational quotes will make you a better writer. Reading is just as important as writing.
Some would whine, how can I possibly squeeze in reading with my hectic schedule? There are many small windows of opportunities within the day that can give you anywhere between ten to thirty minutes of reading. Waiting for your ride, read. Inside the car, read. During your breaktime, read. Before going to bed, read. This doesn’t mean you should slave yourself, getting all freaked out to find bits of time to read and forgetting you have a life! Read leisurely and happily.
“If you don’t have time to read, you don’t have the time (or the tools) to write. Simple as that.” – Stephen King
What should you read? If you’re writing romance, of course, the most natural thing to do is read romance novels. What kind? There are many subgenres of romance which you can choose from. There’s Contemporary, Young Adult, Historical, Paranormal, Inspirational, Romantic Suspense and Erotic Romance. (For a brief description of each, you can check out this ARTICLE from Romance Writers of America.)
What can you possibly gain from reading, be it romance novels or other genres? Faulkner answered you already. “You’ll absorb it.”
When you read, you learn. When you learn, you are better equipped to write better.
Reading improves a writer’s vocabulary. You learn new words. Whenever you encounter a term you’re not used to, you instinctively reach out for a dictionary or thesaurus, don’t you? And in the process, you learn what that word means. Voila! You learned something new.
More than vocabulary, reading teaches writers how to write. How, you may ask? Through reading, writers learn how accomplished authors get it done. We learn about different points of view, how to create structures, how to develop characters, tension and back stories. Dialogues, setting, tone and pitch can be glimpsed from reading and “absorbed” into the mind which can be adapted to our own works.
Consequently, reading can also give us new ideas, new plots, new tropes. Doing so will trigger a writer’s imagination to think up of a story that is uniquely her own, giving it a stamp of her own individuality.
A word of warning, though: “Absorbing” other works is not synonymous to plagiarism, which is a grave offence. Read to discern. Read to learn. Do not read to copy word for word the hard work of a fellow writer.
Lastly, reading can be a source of inspiration in many ways to get you writing. It can inspire you to write more stories. It can get you out of a writer’s block. It can challenge you to write complex plots or flawed characters. It can sweep away the cobwebs in your brain. It can keep you awake and give you a boost of energy when you feel lethargic.
Even non-writers know that reading should be a habit, a passion useful for self-improvement and self-education. If they realize the value of reading, you as a writer should too.
So, read. And don’t just read. Learn from what you read. I don’t care if you read tons and tons of Erotica. But please, go past the c**ks, cl*ts, sex and all that, and ask yourself: what did I learn about writing after reading this?
What are you reading right now? And so far, out of it, what have you learned about writing?
Pointer # 2: Read romance novels.
Tune in next week for Pointer # 3!