Wednesday, September 19, 2012

A Fun Way to Learn

If any writer thinks that they've arrived and that they don't have room to grow, they've just dug a hole in the sand like an ostrich and buried their head inside.
There is still so much to learn and one of the best ways to learn is usually great fun - reading.

I love reading, especially romance. I belong to a book club and most of the people there like their thrillers or fantasy novels. When it's our turn, we get to buy the books, and I always buy romance. Much to their consternation, I think, but they don't complain. I sometimes borrow their thrillers or fantasy novels, and the brilliant ones keep me gripped, but very few do. I keep going back to romance.

What is it about romance that appeals to me so much? I think it's mostly the happy ending and the love and laughter inside. Everyone dreams of having love and that saying is true - it is love that makes the world go round. Babies that aren't given any love can sometimes die. We all need love and give and receive it every day. It's also the light entertainment of reading romance - there are no blood and guts and people fighting for their lives. There's no evil villain (well maybe in romantic suspense) trying to kill off as many people as they can. I just feel that there are so many problems and bad things in this world - enough to fill our minds, but lets instead focus on the happy and good things.

But there is a limitation to just reading romance. It's good to read all types of books so that we can learn from different writing styles. Even the children's books I read to my kids as I teach them at home, teach me so much about writing. Some of them are brilliant. The one book I read to them is called "The Bedouin's Gazelle" and is about a Muslim couple (okay there is some rudimentary romance sprinkled in) set in the middle ages who have to fight to be together. What awed me were her descriptions and use of words and the way she used her craft to make us feel as though we were right there in the desert with the nomads, feeling what they felt every moment. Another book I read with them was peppered with such humorous dialogue, that I was almost crying with laughter.

A thriller I read from the bookshop had a subtle symbolic message threaded throughout the book that gave me much pause for thought. It was so well thought out. I love symbolism and try to put that in my books a little. My latest WIP, Dragonfly Moments, has some symbolism in it. C. S. Lewis' Chronicles of Narnia are full of symbolism - his writing is one of the things that inspired me to become a writer. So reading that thriller inspired me to symbolism.

What else do we learn from reading? We learn what not to do. I've found the strangest typos and grammatical errors, although that is rare. That just reminds me how important editing it, although unless it's throughout the book, it doesn't bother me much. I've read books where authors head hop or tell and not show. And I've read books where the conflict of the story or the characters don't work. I think that is the most important. If I don't root for the characters throughout, it's a waste of time.

Overall, it is best to read the type of books that you are going to write. My new favourite author is Sandra Bricker. She writes funny, light, sweet, contemporary. I wouldn't say all my books are light and funny, but I would like most of them to be. Making people laugh is a dream I have because I love it when a book makes me laugh.

What type of books do you like to read and what have you learnt from them?