To quote Stephen King, “If you want to be a writer, you must do two things above all others: read a lot, and write a lot. There’s no way around these two things that I’m aware of, no shortcut.”

I couldn’t agree more. It is through reading that we grasp how the written word brings other worlds to life. I think it’s safe to say that storytelling has existed just about as long as language has. Every time we tell someone about an experience we had, we are essentially telling them a story. Granted, they aren’t always good tales, but none-the-less, they are still stories.

In just over the last year, I’ve started listening to audiobooks while I work, since it doesn’t interfere with my job. It’s actually how I revisited Stephen King’s On Writing. But here’s the question. Does listening to an audiobook count as actually reading?

I say yes, and no. I think if you have a good grasp of how the written word is properly used, then yes, it can count. Maybe not wholly, but at least a fraction, say 1/3. I often find myself imagining that I’m reading the words as they’re spoken. I also say yes, because you’re exposing yourself to the art of storytelling. However, the reason I say no, is because even though I see the words in my mind, I don’t see the way they are on the actual page with all their punctuation and style. This is why if I have the print copy, and the opportunity, I occasionally like to follow along by reading while I listen.

One of the first audiobooks I listened to at work was The Road by Cormac McCarthy. The reason why I listened to the audiobook in the first place, was because I couldn’t stand the writing style employed in the print book, which doesn’t contain quotation marks, and with certain contractions, doesn’t include the apostrophe. I should note that this is intentional by McCarthy, and is part of his unique style which he employs in his other books as well. Many of which have been made into movies. Unfortunately for me, I find I dislike reading his works. However, I thoroughly enjoyed listening to The Road, as it is a great story. I will add though, that some liberties were taken with the wording in the audiobook version, as certain parts were changed so that it read easier.

In my own writing style, I tend to use a lot of commas. It’s my way of setting the pace and cadence of my writing. I know I don’t always follow the proper rules on the use of the comma, but I’m aware and acknowledged it. It’s my style, and, as much as I’m disheartened by the thought, I’m sure that there is someone out there who won’t like my style, just like I don’t like McCarthy’s.

It’s often been said when it comes to writing, that first you need to learn the rules, so that you can properly break them. Many authors have said this in some fashion or another, and even the Dalai Lama has a similar quotation attributed to him. I’ll admit, in high school, English wasn’t my favorite class. I just couldn’t seem to care what the difference was between a participial phrase and a prepositional phrase. My teachers always praised my writing, so I figured, what did it really matter if I didn’t know all the terms and their differentiation. But when I started taking my writing seriously, I realized that I needed to bone up on my English. I still don’t think you need to learn all the rules, as there are quite a lot of them, but I will admit learning the basics is essential, and any extra beyond that helps. This is where I think reading a lot comes in handy. The more you read, or even listen to audiobooks, the more you absorb how language is properly used. You subconsciously absorb what sounds and looks right on the page.

One of the main things I’ve come away with from being a part of this writing group, is seeing how others interpret my style while reading my works aloud. As a member of Stonehenge, when we submit our works for critique to the group, the author chooses one of our fellow writers, sometimes several, to read aloud what we’ve written. We do this in order to see, or rather, hear, how others interpret our written word. I find this to be extremely helpful.

So, even though my advice isn’t brand spanking new or even a good twist on an old theme, here it is. If you want to be a serious writer; write, read, and listen to audiobooks. And, learn how to properly use the English language so that you can improperly use it effectively.

Stephen King recommends the classic, The Elements of Style by Strunk and White. I would add to that, A Pocket Style Manual by Diana Hacker. I will also add, that one of the many beauties of the internet, is that almost anything can be found online. If I feel something I’ve written just isn’t quite right, it generally only takes a minute or two of searching to find myself saying, “Doh, that’s what I meant to write.” There are a good number of grammar based sites out there on the web, but one that I find the most helpful is by Mignon Fogarty, AKA, Grammar Girl @ http://grammar.quickanddirtytips.com/

What makes Grammar Girl so great, at least in my opinion, is that it’s also a podcast, which means I get to work at two things at once.

So there you are. Now you have my not so sage advice  to being a writer.

P.S. Since this is a blog based on a writers group, I would feel amiss not to add another little bit of advice. Check out a writers group, at least a few times, and even few different ones. They aren’t all the same, and you may have a hard time finding one that fits you, but they can be beneficial. I will say though that they aren’t for every writer. As a matter of fact, some of my favorite authors are against such groups, believing that the cons outweigh the prose. Yes, that’s an intentional pun. But if you don’t ever give them a shot, how will you ever know? Unless you live rurally, I’m sure there’s one local, and if not, there’s plenty online. And if you’re in the Sacramento area, pop your head in some time.

This post is part of my ongoing series inspired by my revisiting Stephen King’s On Writing. To check out the rest, visit my personal blog @ rienreigns.wordpress.com

 

 

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Comments
  1. dwgood68 says:

    In King’s book, “On Writing”, he too professes the use of audio books. My take on his advice is:

    1) have a book with you everywhere you go – doctor waiting rooms, airport lobby, son’s football practice, are all opportunities to read. Grab them when you can – that’s how you add up your reading time.

    and

    2) Listen to audio books while in the car or when it wont distract from what you are doing.

    King does both of these, and according to him, is the way he can (or used to) read 70 or more books a year.

    I have yet to attempt an audio book as most of my drive times are short. But I think they would help a fledgling writer “hear” what a good story sounds like. As for seeing the punctuation that Rein mentions, there still isn’t anything better than a good printed book for that.

    Great post Rein!

    • Rien Reigns says:

      Thanks David. King does indeed recommend audiobooks, and I think it’s great advice to always carry a book with you. I often have, and thanks to technology and smartphones, I now carry hundreds with me at all times. My commutes are usually 15 minutes long which is perfect to get in some Writing Excuses. 15 minutes long because that’s all I got, and they’re modest. I personally don’t thing printed books will ever die out. They may become rare and expensive items, but there’s nothing better than the feel and smell of a paper book.

  2. Good words. I’m also rereading King’s On Writing. Still trying to figure out how to get the suggested 4-6 hours of reading and writing in per day on top of a day job. Audiobooks might be a good tip. Currently, I’ve got Cronin’s The Twelve on CD for a 12 hour drive I’ve got coming up on Christmas.

    • Rien Reigns says:

      Hey Stephen, glad you liked my post. I love King’s On Writing because it’s simple and is also part autobiography. 4-6 hours is tough when you work. I definitely don’t achieve it, that’s for sure. I say any time spent, whether it’s five or fifty minutes, it’s better than nothing. There’s nothing better than a good audiobook for a long drive. It’s how I’ve stayed awake through some long stretches. Haven’t heard of The Twelve, but I looked it up and now I’m interested. Thanks for the unsolicited recommend.

  3. […] I’m part of a writers group and we recently started a collaborative blog which I’m participating in. I’m a little biased, obviously, but I highly suggest you check it out. There are already some great posts by some great writers. Because my next post pertained to my writers group, I decided to publish my post there. So check it out @ https://stonehengewriters.wordpress.com/2012/12/21/read-write-listen/ […]

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