Not long after Sandi wrote her REALIA post, I heard a terrific interview with Marion Roach Smith, the author of the book to which Sandi referred. (Full title: WRITING WHAT YOU KNOW: REALIA.) When asked the most important piece of advice she could offer to writers, she said Read, Read, Read. Now Arnold's posted a piece on that very topic -- with a thoughtful comment by Irene McGarrity that I am echoing here -- and both of those posts dovetail very nicely with something I've been thinking about a lot recently.
A couple of weeks ago I was talking about point of view in my writing workshop, and I recommended to a woman working on a memoir that she read and analyze a few successful memoirs in order to see how others had solved a particular problem she was having. Another participant, a very gifted writer, then shared that she had gone through Tobias Wolff's THIS BOY'S LIFE line by line, marking the text with a yellow highlighter, in order to understand how he was able to seamlessly insert the adult voice into his story. Then later, as she was struggling to get the action to move forward in time, she went though again with a green highlighter marking passages where he accomplished that.
This talented writer is not relying solely on her talent to help her write her book. She is studying her craft by reading purposefully and thinking deeply about what she's reading. And let me tell you, it shows. So I'm with Marion Roach Smith. Read, read, read. And then write, write, write.