Reading and Writing: What's the Connection?

Note: Man, I've got to start keeping better track of my time. It's after midnight, as you can see. Sorry about that, everyone! :P Hey lovelies!

Since I'm in a bookish mood right now (hot chocolate + a rainy evening + a somewhat ranty post on YA Asylum!), I thought I'd talk about something I've been considering a lot lately - books, reading, and their connection to the writing process.

Actually, I got to thinking about this a couple of days ago after one of my critique group members sparked a discussion about our favourite books and whether reading is essential to being a writer. My answer? Yes, of course it is. You can't paint without having studied the paintings of the masters. You can't play music without having listened to it first. Writing is just like any other form of art - it requires not only dedication, but a willingness to experience what others have created before you.

As a fairly young writer myself, I get asked a lot how I've managed to hone my skill and write with as much depth as some adults. (My first reaction to this is usually OH MY GOSH, YOU'RE SUCH A NICE PERSON COME HERE LET ME GIVE YOU A HUG, which sometimes makes them run away screaming and forget all about my writing... but I digress. ;) ) For a really long time I didn't know - and, quite frankly, I didn't really care. But now that I'm thinking about it, the answer seems obvious - I read. All the time. Everything and anything. I read horror and romance. I read Tolkein and Twilight. I read classics. I read the latest releases. I read on the bus, on the train, in bed, at Starbucks, on the phone pretending to be listening to what the other person is saying. If I haven't read it, it's most likely on my TBR already.

And all of that reading, it seems, has translated into my writing. What I rarely read is books about writing. I've only started doing that recently, and even then it's hardly ever about the craft itself - it's about publishing or marketing or any of the little things that must be learned, that can't just be absorbed.

Because above all, I think what I do best is absorb. All of the many authors - it must be in the thousands by now - that I've read have somehow combined and translated into my own unique writing style. I've discovered what I love in a book and what I hate, and all of that has tweaked my style just the slightest bit, made it change and evolve over the years until my writing from just six months ago is almost unrecognisable from this very post.

I've seen it in Frozen Hearts, too. You guys will notice if (when! :D) you read it that somewhere near the end of the book, I start using M dashes in the most exciting moments, to convey thoughts that have been broken off before they even begun. Now, I have no idea whether it was some author I picked that up from, or whether I suddenly just made that up myself - but I'm going to guess it was the former. It's not just that, either; I've noticed as I've been editing all these months that there are so many tiny, subtle things that no one else except for me would ever notice, things that I've dropped or things that I've picked up, that somehow make all the difference in the world.

The most important part of my writing is reading, I've discovered. So what about you? I'd love to hear your thoughts on the connection between your reading and writing. Do you only read the genre you write in? Do you read craft books, or do you just absorb, like me? How do you think you've developed your unique style? Let me know - I can't wait to talk about it! xx

love, Topaz