I’m sure that, as writers, we all read avidly and know the impact that doing so has on our writing. I have been struck again recently about the importance, when reading, of not just sticking to the particular genre that we write within, but making sure we open our eyes up to the wealth of writing styles that are out there.
Of course, even within our own genres there are different ways of writing so wider reading can reveal to us how others express ideas and that, in turn, can often spark creativity in us. It can also give us the impetus and confidence to perhaps try something new with our own writing.
By taking time to really digest the way a writer constructs their sentences, and the writerly approaches they use, we dig deeper into the methodology of writing in a way that a quick skim read of a book simply can’t achieve. For example, we can take a longer, more serious look at the way characters and stories have been constructed and the other techniques employed to keep the reader’s interest.
I am at the draft stage of a book and have had various readers look at sample chapters for me. It has been interesting to mull over their comments, and the particular authors’ writing styles that they have suggested I look at.
At first I wasn’t entirely sure how such feedback would help me, but, having read and digested some of the suggested reading, I found that it helped to clarify and open up my own writing in a way that surprised me. I did, of course, have to be confident enough to recognise when comments were reflecting another writer’s particular style and simply wouldn’t fit my own. Learning to glean the nuggets but not necessarily take on board everything is a necessary filtering process.
Pondering the idea of reading more widely also made me think about how vital it is that we read the whole Bible, not just the books that we either like the best or which we find give us comfort. Whether we call ourselves Christian writers, or writers who happen to be Christian, what we read influences us, so I believe we need to continually feed ourselves the full story of the Bible. If we don’t, I wonder whether we end up with a distorted view of our faith, which could trickle down into our writing?
As a writer of Bible study notes, I am always desperately conscious of not wanting to misinform, which could happen if I don’t get my own understanding right. It is a brilliant way of motivating me to really study rather than just read.
I wonder whether we can unintentionally go off track in other areas of writing too simply because we are influenced by what we do – and don’t – feed ourselves through the reading process?
What do you think? And are there any authors you have read recently that have opened you up to new experiments with your own writing?
Claire is a freelance writer and editor, mum to two gorgeous young children, pastor’s wife, worship leader and school governor. Claire’s desire is to help others draw closer to God through her writing, which focuses on marriage, parenting, worship, discipleship, issues facing women today etc. Her books include Taking your Spiritual Pulse, CWR’s Insight Guide: Managing Conflict and BRF Foundations21 study guides on Prayer and Jesus. She also writes a regular column for Christian Toda