My writing has been derailed recently (and this post delayed). I blame Stephen King and his writing advice for that.
“Read, read, read. If you don’t have time to read, you don’t have the time (or the tools) to write.” ~ Stephen King
I don’t know about you, but when I find a series that I enjoy reading, stopping after just one book and going back to working on what I’m supposed to be working on is rather like eating just one potato chip and walking away from the rest.
Who does that?
Advice for how to be a good writer typically stresses the importance of reading. Besides being entertaining, reading lets us enjoy new styles and different worlds, which can spur our creativity and challenge us to stretch our writing wings. In the past weeks (or months) I’ve definitely been excelling at this aspect of being a writer. 😊
In Writing Fiction, Janet Burroway talks about the importance reading, focusing on the benefits of learning to read as a writer –concentrating on the craft and the techniques and choices of the author. Deconstructing a story can be very helpful in understanding how the various pieces all work together to create an interesting, engaging tale or, conversely, where things break down and cause you to lose interest and wander away.
Regardless of why you read – whether to study the craft as a writer or for the sheer pleasure as a reader – reading can help you grow as a writer while expanding your horizons and entertaining your mind.
One way to combine reading with helping other writers is to volunteer as a judge for one of the many writing contests sponsored by RWA chapters and other groups.
I got a notice in my newsfeed today about the Virginia Romance Writers and their Medallion Awards. Virginia Romance Writers, chapter #19 of Romance Writers of America® is an organization for writers of all levels, from unpublished writers working on their first manuscripts to award-winning, bestselling published authors. In their recent post, in addition to lauding their winners, they also put out a call for judges:
Also, we’re always interested in finding new judges. This contest is different from many in that it’s judged by READERS. If you’re interested in learning more, hop over to http://virginiaromancewriters.com/.
This is hardly the only organization looking for contest judges. So, next time you’re looking for something new to read, consider reaching out to one of the many writing organizations that sponsors contests and see if they are looking for judges.
Who knows, you just might wind up “discovering” the next great story.
For those who have judged writing contests before, have you found the process to be beneficial to you in any way as a writer?
For a couple of years I coordinated a single category of my RWA chapter’s contest, where I learned that it’s customary—or at least polite—to offer to judge a contest that you’ve entered. I met a bunch of really nice people that way. On the whole, I don’t enjoy judging. Most of the entries I’ve read over the years were not to my taste, even though they were in categories I’d chosen. I found them hard to judge if, for example, it was much darker than I’d ever read on my own. I can’t say that I learned anything in particular from reading the entries of others.
However, I did learn something from a judge who read a contest entry of mine. She gave me a terrific score, unlike several of the other judges in the contest. That was my first exposure to how some people are just not your readers. She also told me why she thought I wouldn’t win the contest, although I had finaled. And she was totally right. I’ve thought about the advice she gave me many times since, and it always helps me make decisions about what goes on the first page.
Learning that some people are just not your readers is a good return on a contest entry. I learned that from one of my contest entries that received the highest score from one of the judges and the lowest from another.