Read to Write

I have been travelling and can’t help but feel, after a long day, that I need to get sufficient sleep. However, I intend to honour my commitment to write at least a post a week to be publicised every Monday.

Today’s topic is on writing. I want to talk about how I develop my writing style. The short answer is through reading (a lot). A more elaborated one suggests several things that I usually look for when I read.

First of all, I look for a writing style that I like. Sounds simple. Yes, it is that simple. I simply just read to find an author whose writing resonates well with my character, personality, and experience. There are times when I just stand in front of bookshelves in a local Kinokuniya, undecided which one(s) to go for on the same topic. Eventually, I tend to opt for books that do not spray sophisticated words and terms around. But this does not mean that I prefer not to use them at all. In fact, I do believe that such words enrich our languages and improve our ability to express certain concepts and thoughts but they have their places. Spraying our writing with superfluous words and all the niceties, especially in non-fiction books, is actually defeating the purpose of writing, that is getting the message across to the intended audience.

Second, I look for the narration sequence. This is especially beneficial if you are writing a novel. Many authors write in chronological order, the order in which things happen. Many prefer switching the time back and forth between the past and the present. In Cloud Atlas, a book I am reading now, there are about six different stories set in different times yet all are connected through certain links found in the main characters. It goes from past to present to future then back from future, present and the past to close all the stories. I haven’t reached the end yet, but this is a new technique that is doing its tricks.

Third, I enjoy learning how different authors use syntaxes as well as sets of vocabulary. The way sentences are formed define the tone of that piece of writing. This is where creativity flourishes. And for me, Murakami (and his translators), has been excellent in empowering the syntaxes in his books to have an immense impact on the readers. Syntaxes in Murakami‘s books are very simple. But he (and his translators) chooses his words and their places in the sentences meticulously. Each of his work I read has never failed me in this sense.

So these are the elements I usually look for, consciously or subconsciously, when I read a book. It does help when I write. Whenever I read more, I tend to be able to write more, with ease and with more vocabulary at my disposal. In effect, I read to write. In the first few years of actively writing (after I finished high school), I tended to try to imitate a Thai writer but after a while, I think I have developed my own style of writing. Though I don’t know whether any of my friends / readers have noticed…



18 thoughts on “Read to Write”

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