Don't Freak Out, Just Read

As writers, we're allowed a moderate amount of neuroses. If stereotypes are to be believed, we're all just one glass of wine and an eccentric hat away from Bedlam anyway. What non-writer don't always understand, however, are the things that actually make us nuts. We can give ourselves ulcers, just debating whether or not to use an Oxford comma. (For the record, I'm #TeamOxComma.)

Personally, I've been spending a ridiculous amount of time lately thinking about transitions. Transitions from one chapter to another. Transitions from scene to scene. I've even been musing on transitioning my characters from ballroom to garden. They've just been feeling so unnatural lately.

I can only freak out for so long. Eventually, it starts making my left eye go all twitchy. That is not a good look for me. So, I read.

This time, I read the Curse Workers series by Holly Black. She's the queen of efficient prose and quick pacing. These books read like an urban fantasy homage to 1940s detective novels. Even better for this situation? They're full of brilliant transitions. Studying a master is like its own little mini-course in writing, don't you think? After a week immersed in Black's works, I felt worlds better about transitions. It was much easier to see where I was going wrong, in comparison.

This isn't the first time I've read a favorite writer for study.When I first started seriously writing, I would go through my favorite books and mark them up. They looked just like my old AP US History book - all highlighted passages and scribbled little margin notes. After all this time, I now have a favorite author or two, for each area of writing.

Setting: Deanna Raybourn, Libba Bray
Pacing: Lisa Lutz, Ally Carter
Dialogue: Julia Quinn
Characterization: John Green

I swear, these authors should get paid tuition, for how often I've sought their help.  It's amazing what a little close reading can do. Who would've thought it? My high school English teacher would be so proud.

Do you study your favorite authors? What are some books you go to, when you need a little jolt of craft inspiration?


Nikki McIntosh said...

Interesting that you phrase it that way - I hadn't thought about it, but when I need inspiration I always go back to the same authors. Helen Fielding, Nick Hornby and ... Stephen King. Which is an odd fit ... :)

Anonymous said...

Whenever I get discouraged, I actually go and read books I hate. After that I'm so freakin' annoyed, I actually don't mind my own writing.

Katie said...

I do have authors I go back to over and over...but a new one has entered my life that I just adore. Maybe not every story, but I love her sentences. They have been crafted. They are on purpose. They are fabulous. Kate Morton. My new love affair.