Reading is a guilty pleasure these days when I struggle to find time to write fiction, but it really shouldn’t be. Reading and writing go together like a horse and carriage, or love and marriage, or something like that.
Reading inspires writing. I love to write science fiction, fantasy, magical realism and other kinds of speculative fiction that are difficult to fit in a neat category. Entering another writer’s imagination opens my mind to possibilities other than everyday reality. Sometimes I struggle for days for an idea for a story. Other times an idea will pop into my head from nowhere and the story tells itself before I even have a chance to write it down. But often my ideas have been sparked by something I’ve read.
Reading is also motivation. The output of some authors is prodigious, and most of them had full time jobs before earning enough to make writing a full time career. As I’m reading, I wonder how long it took the author to write the novel. How many times did he or she redraft? If other writers can find the time to write, edit and rewrite over and over again, it’s clear that so can I, and my excuses are just that.
Reading teaches about writing. Some writing that sells millions is of questionable quality, it has to be said, but most authors who have made it into print have something to teach those of us who are just starting out. It might be the way the writer builds tension, uses verbs, tags dialogue, describes emotions, paces action, creates cliffhangers or any of the thousands of other things that good writers do, but if a writer can step out of the novel she’s reading for a moment there’s usually a technical skill worth noting.
Finding reading material, even living in Taiwan, is easy. Novels arrive over the internet in seconds these days, and many magazines are online and free. Here are some favourites:
There are so many opportunities for reading every day – on the bus or MRT, during lunch breaks, waiting to meet friends, before going to sleep at night, while driving … okay, I was kidding on the last one, but if you want to write, you’ve got to read.