ACW

ACW

Friday, 17 July 2015

Reading widely – and more deeply By Claire Musters


I’m sure that, as writers, we all read avidly and know the impact that doing so has on our writing. I have been struck again recently about the importance, when reading, of not just sticking to the particular genre that we write within, but making sure we open our eyes up to the wealth of writing styles that are out there. 

Of course, even within our own genres there are different ways of writing so wider reading can reveal to us how others express ideas and that, in turn, can often spark creativity in us. It can also give us the impetus and confidence to perhaps try something new with our own writing.

By taking time to really digest the way a writer constructs their sentences, and the writerly approaches they use, we dig deeper into the methodology of writing in a way that a quick skim read of a book simply can’t achieve. For example, we can take a longer, more serious look at the way characters and stories have been constructed and the other techniques employed to keep the reader’s interest.

I am at the draft stage of a book and have had various readers look at sample chapters for me. It has been interesting to mull over their comments, and the particular authors’ writing styles that they have suggested I look at. 

At first I wasn’t entirely sure how such feedback would help me, but, having read and digested some of the suggested reading, I found that it helped to clarify and open up my own writing in a way that surprised me. I did, of course, have to be confident enough to recognise when comments were reflecting another writer’s particular style and simply wouldn’t fit my own. Learning to glean the nuggets but not necessarily take on board everything is a necessary filtering process.

Pondering the idea of reading more widely also made me think about how vital it is that we read the whole Bible, not just the books that we either like the best or which we find give us comfort. Whether we call ourselves Christian writers, or writers who happen to be Christian, what we read influences us, so I believe we need to continually feed ourselves the full story of the Bible. If we don’t, I wonder whether we end up with a distorted view of our faith, which could trickle down into our writing? 

As a writer of Bible study notes, I am always desperately conscious of not wanting to misinform, which could happen if I don’t get my own understanding right. It is a brilliant way of motivating me to really study rather than just read. 

I wonder whether we can unintentionally go off track in other areas of writing too simply because we are influenced by what we do – and don’t – feed ourselves through the reading process?


What do you think? And are there any authors you have read recently that have opened you up to new experiments with your own writing?

Claire is a freelance writer and editor, mum to two gorgeous young children, pastor’s wife, worship leader and school governor. Claire’s desire is to help others draw closer to God through her writing, which focuses on marriage, parenting, worship, discipleship, issues facing women today etc. Her books include Taking your Spiritual PulseCWR’s Insight Guide: Managing Conflict and BRF Foundations21 study guides on Prayer and Jesus. She also writes a regular column for Christian Toda

7 comments:

  1. This is so true Claire. It is easy to fall into the comfortable with regards to reading books and the bible. It is important to widen our horizons and be open to new ideas.

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    2. Yes it is - just had a pile of books arrive and some are totally different to my usual choice - glad the holidays are looming so I can get stuck into them :)

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  2. Great post! These are wise words, Claire:"Whether we call ourselves Christian writers, or writers who happen to be Christian, what we read influences us, so I believe we need to continually feed ourselves the full story of the Bible. If we don’t, I wonder whether we end up with a distorted view of our faith, which could trickle down into our writing?" and ones worth pondering as we engage in wider reading and writing. Thank you! :) x

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  3. Yes and yes: the Bible is a library not a book so we need to explore all the shelves, and we also need to have some idea about how it all came to be there from the human viewpoint. I've recently read some Neil Gaiman whereas I don't read fantasy, a book about CS Lewis by Alisdair McGrath (not the biography, a book about how Lewis came to write what he wrote, and how he argues for Christianity, etc), a novel by Patrick Gale and am now on a novel by Sarah Waters, two who I'd recommend for learning about the how-to of writing. Before that I was reading Indie authors which included time-travel/alternative history - neither of which are what I'd normally read.

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  4. Yes and yes: the Bible is a library not a book so we need to explore all the shelves, and we also need to have some idea about how it all came to be there from the human viewpoint. I've recently read some Neil Gaiman whereas I don't read fantasy, a book about CS Lewis by Alisdair McGrath (not the biography, a book about how Lewis came to write what he wrote, and how he argues for Christianity, etc), a novel by Patrick Gale and am now on a novel by Sarah Waters, two who I'd recommend for learning about the how-to of writing. Before that I was reading Indie authors which included time-travel/alternative history - neither of which are what I'd normally read.

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  5. When I spend more time with God and in his word I find that my writing improves and flows much easier - espcially writing devotions and Bible notes. It is what flows from the heart that comes from our mouth or pen in this case and as Christian writers we need hearts filled with God's love - even if our writing is not purely Christian in nature, it can still be filled with His love.

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