Guest blogger Blake Stevens on reading to become a better writer.
I am a prolific reader and I read to learn. I love reading great books on leadership, business history, wine, cooking, philosophy, theology, church history and a number of other topics. I also enjoy reading non-fiction detective and spy novels, and other forms of 'brain candy.' Until recently, the main purpose of my reading was to consume as much content as I could.
Occasionally, the style of writing would get in the way and inhibit my ability and even my desire to finish a book. Poor structuring of the content, poor grammatical phrasing, and overuse of complex, compounded sentences made reading tiring. Sometimes, poor writing could even be disruptive to my reading and 'stop me in my tracks.' When this occurred, I noticed it because it was forced upon me. At the time, I was not reading with the view to determine the degree of readability.
I have read the entire Bible in both the King James format and the NIV format. I find the King James version easy enough to read, but noticed when switching in between versions that I would read the NIV version about 25% faster than the King James version, and I was more tired after reading the King James version. The readability is just not as good as with the NIV version. Both are well written but the King James version has a tougher style and the reading process less fluid.
Since starting to write my first book, I have read five books and have been noticing and reviewing the different writing styles of each book. I am taking the time to figure out what makes one book easier to read than another one. I am also reviewing the style and ease of reading earlier and later works from the same author. In most cases, all authors have improved the readability of their books over time.
I have found several things that stand out to make one book easier to read and enjoy than another, including:• Simpler, less compounded sentence structure
• Clarity of pronouns and removing ambiguous pronouns
• Less formal, more personal 'talking' style
• Consistent and progressive use of tense
• Some use of humor
I am sure there are a lot of other factors at play that make a book more readable, but these are things I have noticed which I have been trying to improve upon in my book. At first, I thought reviewing the writing style of a book would take away from the pure enjoyment of reading it, but have found quite the opposite. I am enjoying this new dimension to reading and it is also now helping my writing.
Dixon says: By the way, I've working with 11 other crime and thriller writers on a readers event called SHAMROCKS-N-SIRENS, and it runs through March 17th. Today, March 13th, I happen to be the featured author. You can find a YouTube clip about the event here. Interviews about me and my thriller THE ASSASSINS CLUB can be found on various blogs, including those of Stella Deleuze and Pat Bertram.