Mar 28, 2012

Read Harder to Write Better

My degree is in literature - I added the teaching part later as a certification, but when I graduated it was with an English degree.  I have read many classics, my study of emphasis was 16th and 17th Century British literature.

I'm telling you this because I had forgotten what I liked to read.  I LOVE to read YA - I enjoy the escapism, the fact that I can get lost in the amazing worlds built by these authors.  But right now, I'm not writing YA.  Plan to at some point, but not right now.

I was sitting with my brother last night discussing literature.  He came to the love of reading game at the end of high school and wants to even the playing field a bit, so we were discussing classics.  Sure, part of this had to do with the fact that many of the classics are free for the various ereaders, but he is planning to major in law, and really wants to set a foundation.  So I was going through and telling him all the different classics he needed to read - Benjamin Franklin's Autobiography, Dickens, Hemingway, More, etc.  Then I discovered I could download my beloved Paradise Lost by John Milton.  I read a page or two with him, he left with my copy of The Kite Runner and I kept reading Milton.  And something clicked in my mind, a desire to change the way I've been introducing parts of the world I'm writing.

While there is an essential necessity to allow reading to stay an escape, I think there is an equal necessity to challenge ourselves to see just what we could do with our writing.  And I really think this is cross genre.  Some of my favorite YA reads in the last year are those that are a little more poetic with the writing, have the depth of the back story to elevate the current one beyond what it might have been.  If we are challenging ourselves to read higher, harder, our minds can continue to stretch and grow - something that can only enhance our writing.  I'm not talking about reverting back to three pages describing the bark on a tree, but some of the really amazing language that has made classics classics can only help our writing.

So, a little challenge.  What is the classic you have heard about, intended to read, said you read in high school but didn't - whatever - that you want to read this year?  Obviously I'm not your teacher and I can't MAKE you do it, but I think you would be amazed if you tried.

I'm shooting for Les Miserables by Victor Hugo.  (Aim high, right?)

When are times when you have seen that your reading enhances your writing?  What are books or authors that inspire you to write better?  

18 comments :

Shell Flower said...

I just read Les Miserables and found it to be so very lovely in the writing and easy to read for a classic. It has a great twisting plot, and Hugo's insights into human nature are amazing. Yay classics.

Rosalyn said...

I'm enough of a nerd that if I said I was going to read something in HS I did (including *all* of Moby Dick and War and Peace). I'll have to go inspect my shelves now and see what classics I have that I haven't actually read. I'm sure there are some--maybe Crime and Punishment? Or Anna Karenina?

I love Les Mis--that said, it's one of the few classics where I think you could read the unabridged (do we really need 50 pages about the battle of Waterloo or the Paris sewer system?)

elizabeth seckman said...

Les Miserables is one of my favorites because of the characters. The priest in the story? LOVE HIM (and he's a minor character)
I am reading Atlas Shrugged right now. I like it. It has such a complex plot and great characters, but if I were an editor I'd suggest slicing the word count.

elizabeth seckman said...

@Rosalyn- you are a hero reader. I started Moby Dick and quit. I just don't get that one. Does it get better? Should I try again?

Donna K. Weaver said...

I did a lot of classic literature reading the summer my mother died just before I turned 15. Fell in love with so many new/old writers at the time.

Shallee said...

Such a great point on broadening your reading experience to broaden your writing experience. I've been reading a sci fi classic lately, one that I always meant to read but never did. It's always good to remind ourselves that there are different styles and types of writing.

S.P. Bowers said...

I guess It would be Moby Dick. That's the only one I gave up on.

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

I've seen the original cast members do Les Miserables - does that count?
Actually within the last year I downloaded and read some free classics, including A Christmas Carol and several Sherlock Holmes. Have some Burroughs downloaded now and ready to dive in.

welcome to my world of poetry said...

Where I live it is where the son of poet Percy Shelley lived.
The ground where I have a rented appartment was owned by him, also he bought a manor along the road from me. In his day he had it renovated for his mother Mary Shelley (Frankenstien Author)
Had a theatre built on to the manor. Alas Mary died before completion but her son stayed there until his death. The manor is now our health centre but the theatre still stands. All the Shelleys are buried in our local church at Bournemouth UK When I found this out it made compelling reading about the life and times of the Shelley.s
Yvonne.

L. Diane Wolfe said...

I've tried to get into the classics and just can't.

I've always written fiction, so I am grateful for the hundreds of non-fiction books I read before tackling my first non-fiction book.

Andrew Leon said...

I always read the books I was supposed to read. However, I've always meant to get around to Don Quixote and the Divine Comedy.
And Catcher in the Rye.

Shannon Lawrence said...

I've never ready anything by Jane Austen, and intend to try it out this year. I just never got around to it, which was weird when I realized it.

Oh yes, and I never read Moby Dick, which I was actually assigned in high school. I was working so much that I just completely lacked time to read. I'd heard so much about it over the years, though, that I still passed that part of the class. Not proud of it, but it was what it was.

Shannon at The Warrior Muse, co-host of the 2012 #atozchallenge! Twitter: @AprilA2Z

Martha said...

I'm stopping by to say hello before the A-Z challenge begins. I'm a new follower here :)

Susan Gourley/Kelley said...

I read the Count of Monte Cristo recently. I think reading the classics does help develop our appreciate of phrasing and the plot development by those masters.

elizabeth seckman said...

Tasha- I haven't read Fountainhead, but I did buy it. I did read Anthem.
And truthfully, there are large chunks of verbose lectures I skim/skip.

Angela Cothran said...

I really like to read classics. I'm always surprised how many people have never read them. I would like to read Dracula, The Moonstone, The Great Gatsby, to name a few.

If you read Les Mis, make sure you read the abridged version. I took one summer and read it, but I thought I would be all fancy and read the unabridged. BAD IDEA! Hugo wrote it when authors were paid by the page. Boy did he need an editor. It almost ruined the book for me.

Sarah Pearson said...

I tried Les Miserables but didn't get very far. I didn't realise there was an abridged version. I may have to try it.

Harmony said...

Never quite finished Tess of the D'Urbervilles in HS and still feel a little guilty about it. :-)