My parents have been avid readers all their lives, so it’s no surprise that reading became a hobby of mine too. It was something both my parents encouraged me to do, and were proud to see me read so frequently.
I don’t think you’d be surprised to hear that I was the girl in high school sitting in the back row, secretly writing or reading when I should have been paying attention. But by my senior year of high school and into my cosmetology schooling, I admit, I gave up reading.
Picking up a book became a rare thing for me, and at most, I was maybe reading one or two a year. I was so busy with schoolwork, and writing my own novels, that reading was something I’d given up.
And oh boy, I wish I hadn’t.
I wanted to read, I really did. I would frequent Barnes & Nobles or the book aisles in Target and Walmart, desperate for something to catch my eye. But every time I picked up a book and read the blurb, I was unimpressed. I would shrug my shoulders, say, “Boring!” and put it back on the shelf. For longer than I want to admit, this become a bad habit.
It wasn’t until Laura Sebastian’s Ash Princess came out, that I was suddenly excited for a new book release. Something about the story really captivated me, and on release day, I went on a lunch break at work and hurried to my local Barnes & Nobles in time to snag the last copy.
I devoured that book in one night.
Ash Princess reminded me how much I loved to read, and how stupid I was to give it up. So I decided to stop being picky, start reading again, and give all the books a shot that I’d once thought weren’t interesting before. Thanks to the help of some CP’s, I was given some wonderful book suggestions, and since then, I’ve made reading a habit again.
Reading has not only helped me make meaningful connections with people in the writing community, but it’s also done so much more: it’s made me a better writer.
Like every young writer out there, my writing desperately needed to improve. And you know what they say, “To be a writer, you have to read a lot and write a lot.” I had the writing a lot part down – it wasn’t uncommon for me write for several hours a day; but I was severely lacking in the reading department, and my writing suffered for it.
My writing was repetitive (hey, it still kind of is, nobody’s perfect). My book’s pacing were off, I had way too many characters and too many to keep track of. I hadn’t mastered the art of opening pages or creating better characters who readers would root for and connect with. My writing had hit a standstill, and I strongly believe it was because I wasn’t reading enough.
When I took up reading again, some of the first books I read were Ash Princess, and Sarah J. Maas’s A Court of Thorns and Roses series. In only the span of a few weeks, just by reading a couple of books, I began to notice a drastic difference in my writing.
My vocabulary grew, my descriptions became cleaner, my writing became prettier and not so stilted. I began to understand how to pace my novels, and not bog them down with unnecessary scenes. My grammar and voice improved. It was like everything about my writing leveled up.
Here’s an excerpt from my first novel, Androids:
“Quietly, we followed along. Morgan was the first to enter, holding her head up high, and we followed after her. My jaw dropped as I peered around the room the peach-tiled room. Showers – at least ten of them – lined the left wall. At the opposite side, there were bathroom stalls colored beige, and on the back wall were a couple of sinks and mirrors. Towel racks hung on either side, and in the corner was a laundry basket. In the middle of the room were three long wooden benches.
I couldn’t believe they had this much room. And enough to spare? How many Androids lived down with here? The thought consumed me.
Andrea hobbled over to the nearest bench. I followed and sat down next to her as she raised up her foot to examine it. The bandages were filthy, with wet leaves clinging to them, and dark blood had seeped through. She peeled off the bandages and winced.”
Compared to my newest novel, Forbidden:
“He hated feasts.
If there was one thing Malistaire would skip out on every chance he could, it was the royal feasts his parents insisted on holding. “You need to have a presence in your Court,” his father would say. “Your court will look to you for advice and guidance. A good king doesn’t resign himself to solitude.”
But Malistaire enjoyed the solitude, and he certainly preferred the company of his own shadow than other people. He reclined a little further in the seat of his throne. People danced to the tune of the flute and harp. Amongst them, his eyes continued to land on Seraphina and Julian. He studied the way he pulled her close, the way she laughed at whatever he said – it left him reeling.”
Can you see the improvements between both novels?
I’m still not a perfect writer, and I still have a lot to learn. But by the simple act of reincorporating reading into my life, I’ve not only gained a healthy hobby, but a way to keep myself creative, inspired, and to constantly improve in all aspects of my life.
“The more that you read, the more things you will know. The more that you learn, the more places you’ll go.” – Dr. Seuss