A writer who doesn’t read

by M.J. Hearle

I need to read more.

I’ve always suspected this but it became abundantly clear to me during the Imaginary Worlds panel a few weeks ago. Claire Corbett (When We Have Wings) and Mark Harding (Momentum Publishing) and I had been called upon to discuss the speculative fiction genre and all things geeky. The panel was moderated by the charming P.M. Newton who kept the discussion going via her stimulating questions and was there to bail us out if we ran into trouble. I write bail us out but in truth, I was the only one who might have needed a helping hand.

Public speaking is still something I’m not entirely comfortable with. Oh lets be honest, it terrifies the crap out of me. Still, I recognise it as an absolutely crucial aspect of self-promotion, so I do it whenever I can. Albiet, with a stomach full of butterflies. When I received the invitation to take part in the panel discussion I jumped at it, knowing full well the anxiety I was signing up for. If my fellow panelists shared a similar apprehension you wouldn’t have been able to tell. Both Mark and Claire were consumate professionals, never failing to offer insightful and articulate responses to the questions posed.

Listening to the way they effortlessly reeled off author names and book quotations to support talking points really drove home just how little I’ve actually read in the Sci-Fi/Fantasy genre. Sure, I might have more books on my shelf than the average punter but as an author I feel woefully illiterate. I haven’t even read The Lord of The Rings for chrissakes! It’s not that I don’t read – I do, it’s just I don’t prioritise reading as highly as I should.

Instead, of surfing the net during my lunch break I should be leafing through a paperback. Instead of listening to Siamese Dream on my way to work for the thousandth spin, I should have an audiobook running. Rather than watching two episodes of True Blood in a row maybe I could stop at one and use the extra time to oh, I don’t know? READ! There are so many great novels out there it seems almost a crime that I’m not reading at every available opportunity. For an author, it should be a crime.

A firmly believe the more we read the more our writing improves. Reading not only expands our vocabulary, it broadens our imagination, stretches us, prompts us to think differently about story and character. The more we read the greater opportunity we have to pilfer linguistic and structural tricks for our own writing. Not to mention an expansive knowledge of books also prepares us to speak eloquently during panel discussions and not come across like a total ning nong. Writers should read. It’s as simple as that. A writer who doesn’t read, is like an architect who doesn’t live in a house. Actually, that’s a terrible analogy. If I read more, I probably could have come up with a better one.