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Guest Blogger Pat Martinez: Reading and Writing Patterns


Remember Pat and her great guest post, "Morphemes and the Creation of Character Names and Words?"  Today she's back with another fun and thought-provoking post.  I'm really looking forward to reading the comments to this one.  Please visit Pat's blog, Once Upon a Time...., on your way out.  Thanks!

Reading and Writing Patterns

The admonishment to write consistently and everyday is like the number one song on the radio-you hear it over and over again. Fellow writer and friend, Annie Douglas recently gave an insightful perspective to this admonishment: When they say to write daily, I'm seeing another reason why it's so important. Think about a time when you've picked up a book and read it quickly, in a day or two. Now think of a time when you've read a book a day here and a day there, as time permits.

How does reading this way affect the meaning of the story? Does the story speak differently to you?

I'm seeing that consistent writing helps me write a better, more meaningful story. I'm more engaged with my characters.
I completely agree with Annie and the multitude of other voices- editors, agents, writers, who shout from the rooftops "Write everyday!" Yet, how many of us are as consistent as we should be? Annie's reading to writing comparison caused me to look at the way I read.

At this moment, I am reading When You Reach Me by Rebecca Stead; The Story of the World and The History of the Ancient World, both by Susan Wise Bauer; Homer's The OdysseyWrite Beside Them by Penny Kittle, and Have a Little Faith by Mitch Album.

I know. Quite the array of genres. But this is how I thrive as a reader. So, could this have anything to do with how I could thrive as a writer?

For many months I have been snailing at my new edgy YA. In the last month, I've gotten two new ideas for yet two new edgy YA's. But working on three YA's? Crazy, distracting, possible?

Because most writers are avid readers, here is the challenge: Look at the way you read. What are your patterns, time frames, even the hours you love to read? Do you sit down for hours? Or grab snippets of time here and there? What keeps your interest? Do you plow through one book at a time? Many? While examining every aspect of your writing habits, see if you can apply your reading discoveries to your writing success.


Sherrie Petersen said...

I don't write every single day. More like five out of seven. But even when I'm not adding to my word count, I'm going over it in my head, coming up with solutions, working out scenarios. These days I'm dreaming about my characters.

Jonathon Arntson said...

I've been thinking about creating a writing schedule for a few months now...I am not sure why it took your words to persuade me, but I will be trial and erroring soon.

Anne Gallagher said...

I read books all in one sitting. I can't put it down. Which is why I don't get any writing done. But I've also found that when I do write, I'll do it all in one sitting. Mostly weekends but I'll end up with 15-20,000 words by Sunday night.

Anonymous said...

I'm new at writing in a dedicated way and this is a helpful way to think about it. My preferred mode of reading, if it's good, is all at once, forgoing food and sleep. But my life tends to go haywire when I indulge that mode, so I try to schedule it in short bits and pieces.
I guess allowing for some long streaks and some regularly scheduled bits would be a good schedule for me.
Thanks for the idea.

Crystal Cook said...

This is brilliant! I never thought about reading in relation to writing that way before. I love to read a book in long chunks of time if I have it, sometimes staying up late just to finish it before my kids get up in the morning. I have seen more success with my writing when I write every day, by that I mean actually writing something. But I have yet to stay up late because I just have to finish writing. Hmmm should try that.

Laura Pauling said...

I think you have to write how you work best. There is no best way. Especially since we all can't sit down every day and write 1,000 words. Find what works for you.

If a book is good enough. I read straight through as fast as I can. Plain and simple. But, some books, I keep renewing because the interest level isn't high enough, even though I eventually finish them. Usually.

Unknown said...

Well, I actually read auditorilly, which is to say that I'm dislexic and ADHD, so reading a book is physically taxing for me. As such, I listen to audiobooks, and I'm not sure how well the relation works for me.

As for my writing habits go, I'm like Sherrie. I write five out of seven days, which is to say I write on my work days. I'm lucky enough to work at a job that doesn't start until 9, and I live fairly close. So, I don't have to start getting ready until 8. What I started doing was get up an hour early. Then, I check my email, facebook, and the few online comics I read, and then start writing. That usually gives me a good 45 minutes a day to write. I was able to hammer out the last half of my book pretty easily with that schedule. Even now that I'm done, I still get up that hour early, using the time to edit, contact agents (that I found here), and plot out my next project(s).

As Sherrie said, I'm always going over stuff in my head too. I usually have the scene worked out before I even start typing.

Ariel said...

Fascinating. I write exactly like I read--every day whenever I have at least two minutes of time. It keeps the story I'm reading fresh in my mind. With writing, it's the same. Even a few minutes every day keeps the story fresh and helps me keep the creativity flowing.

kathrynjankowski said...

Although I believe writing flows best when given a regular schedule, sometimes you have to sit back and take a breather.
Of course, as Sherrie pointed out, the story tends to stay with you regardless.

pat said...

Some fascinating comments that are furthering my understanding of my own post--especially the one about the books that don't keep your interest. My best and most devoted writing comes when I'm as excited about the story I'm writing in the same way that I'm excited about reading a book.

Imagine what we could write if we wrote with the same intensity that we read.

Linda Maye Adams said...


For most books, it's 60 minutes a day, in two 30 minute blocks. With some, I get bored and start skipping pages--like an action thriller that had a marital angst subplot. Every time I hit that subplot, I was skipping pages to get back to the main story. Or the eBook that was introducing us to sample chapters from upcoming books. I was great with chapter 1 samples,but got bored with one that provided a sample from the middle.

If the book's really good, I'll read it in one sitting, but that isn't too often, unfortunately.

I also might read more than one at a time (right now, it's three), or be bored by one and put it down for weeks and reread other books or anything but (this is particularly true with some of the books I've reviewed).


I do try to write nearly every day (with one day for a break), generally at the same time. I also have trouble a lot with subplots when I write. They don't naturally occur for me, and I have to put them in manually on revisions. I've seen far too many in books that felt like filler that this wall goes up when I try subplots. When I write, I usually get up and wander around in the middle of it and then come back. Sometimes, like on Saturday, I'll have the computer on and just wander back and forth all day. It's odd, because I never do this with a book--I usually wait until I have time to read for a while. But writing can be stop-start.

Christina Farley said...

Very interesting. I try to write every day but it doesn't always work out that way. Sometimes I wonder if the weather has something to do with it.

Heather Kelly said...

I love this--I had never thought to connect reading patterns with writing patterns before. I don't think that you have to write every single day, but I do think that it's good to make a habit of writing. Once it's a habit, then you can relax a bit. Thanks for the new perspective.

Casey Something said...

What great responses!

For me, I usually only read one book at a time and, especially if it's YA, tend to blow through them in one or two sittings.

While I don't do huge chunks of writing in a given sitting (though, I used to), I do think it's best for me to work on one MS at a time, which could be related to my reading pattern.

Thanks again, Pat!

Kelsey (Dominique) Ridge said...

A very interesting idea.
Come to think of it, I do write like I read. I tell myself, 'you're going to read x pages a day and be done with this.' I let myself go over but set a minimum. When I'm crunched for time and inspiration, I make myself go 500 words. I'll go over if I'm feeling it, but I keep myself on track with a minimum.

Lisa Nowak said...

It makes perfect sense that you'd need to write consistently to keep track of the story and characters. I've never thought to compare it to reading, but I can see the connection. Of course if you obsess about your characters all the time and discuss them frequently with your friends or significant other, I think you achieve similar results. :) The important thing is to keep yourself immersed in their world.