How did reading Crime and Punishment affect you?

Reading Dostoevsky’s classic novel Crime and Punishment wrung me out and left me out to dry emotionally.

Like leaving a gizmo in your car’s cigarette lighter and leaving the car overnight, I did not sense the book taking so much out of me until I finished and tried to read something else.

In Crime and Punishment, Raskolnikov does not want his sister to get married to Luzhin, but his yearning, as a mad man, ran far deeper. He learns in the end, in the very, very end that his pride and separation from society isn’t what he has chalked it up to be and in the end … I will leave for you to discover on your own.

My own novel writing improved by reading.

I am not writing the follow-up to a Dostoevsky novel. But few things have helped my writing more than reading.

Now that I’m revising, looking at what I have written before, I am embarrassed at what I have on the pages. What I have submitted to agents and said, “This is ready.” Because it is not. It wasn’t. I can see that now.

I’ve learned something important.

And that’s the good thing about writing and reading. We get better every day. Anne Lamott says she gets asked by students, “How do you get better at writing?” She says the best way to show students, and it often makes them frustrated, is to pick up a yellow writing pad, pretend she has a pen in her hand, and begin to pretend she is writing on the page. That’s how you become a better writer. You write. But just as important, you read. And read. And read. And read. And write some more.

And the way you make your drafts better? You revise. And revise. And revise. That doesn’t mean you change a comma here, and a word there. Fix the spelling on this page.

No, you reimagine what you’re trying to say, and you say something else entirely. That’s revision. Jen Manuel says, “Re Imagine.”