How Good Reading Makes For Good Writing

So I was thinking that the Beneficent Mr. Hall would really enjoy Harlan Coben’s The Woods–plus, it was free, so I brought it home. (I can be beneficent, too, you know.) And wouldn’t you know it? The man had already read it.

So there lay the book on my table…waiting.

Now, of course I’d heard of Harlan Coben, and read a couple writing articles by Harlan Coben, and knew he was all that and a bag of chips. But I’d quit reading mysteries years ago. I love a good mystery, but after years of reading tons of mysteries, one gets halfway into the first chapter and says, “He’s the guy. (Or girl, as the case may be.)” Which sort of defeats the purpose of a mystery, right?

Still, it was New York Times best-seller Harlan Coben and I thought, okay, fine. I’ll read one more mystery. But it better be good.

Oh, it was good. It was real good. It was why-must-you-torture-me-with-your-excellent-writing good.

So. I’m thoroughly chastened. And not just because I’d pooh-poohed mystery reading. I read The Woods through the eyes of a wannabe published author and learned SO much about writing that works… great pacing, authentic character development, just the right mix of description and narrative, true dialogue. And the way he wove so many stories together so effortlessly and organically  was brilliant. (And how in the world can he do that without outlining???).

It was way more than reading. It was an education. And it was there, all along, just waiting for me.

So, how about you? Got a book like that? ‘Cause I’d sure love to read it. (Perhaps the Beneficent Mr. Hall would, too. But he’ll have to wait till I’ve finished it first. I’m not that beneficent. )

P.S. I came across this list of Six Page Turners You’ll Tear Through from Oprah’s book picks. Since I tore through The Woods, I thought I might try one of these, maybe learn a little more. Holy moly, I hope my brain doesn’t explode this summer!

11 thoughts on “How Good Reading Makes For Good Writing

  1. Commiserating with your “why-must-you-torture-me-with-your-excellent-writing” comment. Lately, I have been avoiding books altogether because my WIP is…er…less than stellar right now? Yeah, that’s a GREAT strategy. Stop reading. *head desk*. Thanks for the book rec, though! If I ever finish this WIP, it will be on my list!

  2. I’ve been singing the praises of the talented Mr. Coben ever since I was assigned some of his reading in a class on how to hook the reader with emotion. He’s got it down to a science. Also, I’ve never, and I repeat never, seen the final twist in his books until the last page. He’s a genius. Not only is his writing suspenseful and true to life, the characters can be funny, too. I’ve only read his stand alone books. I haven’t read his Myron Bolitar series.

    Another writer I love is John LesCroart. I’m reading a book right now by Robert Lowe called Project Moses, and his writing is just as colorful and entertaining as Harlan’s and John’s. I think it’s time to add some female names to the list. Perhaps Cathy? Or Suzanne?

    • Cathy and Suzanne…hmmm. How do I know those names??? 😉 (And P.S. Agree 100% on that hook. He had me from the get go!)

  3. I’m a big fan of Harlan Coben, especially his stand alone novels. I mentioned on my blog last week a couple of novels I read last month that were really good, especially GONE GIRL by Gillian Flynn (her previous novels are great, too!) But, I warn you now, your brain will explode when you read it. I have no idea how she kept so many of those plot twists straight.. Just thinking about it gives me a headache…

    • Oh, yeah, Madeline, I remember your post about GONE GIRL! I don’t know if I should risk it…but I’m going to, anyway! (I’ll keep you posted on the brain exploding thing…)

  4. “Heart Shaped Box” by Joe Hill (Stephen King’s son) is phenomenal. It gets a hold of you almost immediately, and doesn’t let up until the end. “Haunted” by Chuck Palachniuk (wrote Fight Club as well) is a wonderful, twisted book about a writing retreat that went off track. “Handle with Care” by Jodi Picoult, “The Persian Pickle Club” by Sandra Dallas, and the “The Chili Queen,” also by Dallas are all books I adore.

  5. Pingback: Recent discovery: Harlan Coben « On my bookshelf

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