Jersey Farm Scribe here on
Reading to Write
Being a writer is sometimes a bit like being one of those people that spins plates in the circus. You know, these guys:
It’s a combination of balance, persistence and continual attention to a dozen different things at one time.
Everyone has a different list of things going on in their life. We all know we have to make time to write, schedule time out, create the priority if we’re going to be successful.
What’s also important…. and sometimes quick to go to the way-side… is taking time to READ.
It’s a common story. Writer has busy life to being with. But they want to be a serious writer, so they MAKE the time to work on their manuscript. Every spare moment they have…. Right?
Nope. Sorry. It just won’t work like that.
WRITERS MUST READ
And as children’s book writers, we must read children’s books. A LOT of them.
Everyone has to find the way that works for them as to how they approach this reading. For me, as a chapter book/picture book writer, here’s what I’ve found I get the most from:
For picture books, I can go to the library and “read” 20 picture books in a fairly short period of time. But realistically, for me, that’s not enough to really get what I need. If I did that, they would largely go in one ear and out the other! I need to study them. Count the words. Look at the character development, how quickly did we get to the problem, who is driving the story? How much repetition is there? What sort of picture book authors do I relate MY writing to? When I’m reading a picture book, I ALWAYS have a notebook by my side.
With chapter books, I go to the library and take out 15-20 at a time and read them over the course of a week or two.
For these, I have two distinctly different reading styles. Some I cozy up on the couch and read to enjoy and feel the flow of the story, the plot etc. Children’s literature has a rhythm, and this is the time where I just immerse myself in the ebb and flow of how it FEELs to read it.
Others I read with my trusty notebook and pen. I write down things I liked the author did, and things I want to steer away from. I measure chapter length, percent of dialogue, number of characters introduced, plot development, subplots, vocabulary etc.
Personally, I thrive on competition, even if it’s with myself! So one way I motivate myself to read is I set myself a challenge.
Currently I’m working on my Read 100 Chapter books in Three Months Challenge. It’s going well. I’m about ten weeks in. And while to be perfectly honest, I can’t guarantee that I’m QUITE going to make it. But having read over 65 chapter books in about ten weeks in is still something I’m very proud of.
And the amount that I’ve learned is unbelievable. About 35 books in I had a week where I felt like… okay, yeah, I get it. Do I really need to keep reading so many of these??
The next few I read I had to FORCE myself to read, and honestly, probably didn’t get a darn thing out any of them.
But a few books later, something caught my eye, and then something else. My trusty little notebook began to fill up again.
Turns out, the learning really IS endless, because the more I learn, the more I’m able to notice!! I even went back and read a chapter book I had read towards the beginning of my challenge, and the list of new things I noted this time around was almost unbelievable.
Reading to write definitely isn’t something we ever conquer or get to check off of our to-do list. And while I love to read, there are times when with all the spinning dishes, it seems like a harmless one to let slide.
That’s when it’s time for me to remind myself that writing is a craft, and reading is really it’s constant prerequisite.
And you know what… our manuscripts deserve it!