All These Books To Read

I was rummaging through my bookshelf and realized that for all of the books standing shoulder to shoulder like paperback soldiers, I haven’t read a majority of them.

That seems counterintuitive for someone who operates a literary blog, aspires to be an established author, and hands out book reviews on occasion. I used to believe that reading fiction books was going to cause me to glean plots and characters from other writers; that their ideas would find their way into my stories and I would then become known as that hack who rips people off.

I now understand that I was entirely mistaken – reading is paramount to aspiring and established writers alike.

There is only one way to learn what is good writing and what is shitty-shitty writing, and that is to tread through thousands of white pages and black ink. It also helps you to discover what kind of author you want to evolve into, what kind of prose, story, and characters you want to bring into the world. Reading is like stylizing your personal catalog, picking and choosing how to feng shui your stories.

I enjoy Cormac McCarthy – Blood Meridian is intense – but his bleak, minimalistic style is not how I want to frame my settings. I am much more inclined to describe the weather, much like Neil Gaiman – who receives two heapings of shit from critics for doing so.

And that’s the glory of it – you can write whatever the hell you want, as long as you know how to make it interesting. If you can’t interest a reader, then you can’t interest the literary agent, publishing house, and, most likely, not even yourself.

But before you know what you want to write, you have to know what you want to read.

When asked how he writes, John Scalzi responded, “If I get bored reading my own work, I take it out.”

Words to live by.

If you can’t bother with your own stories, what makes you think that someone else will?


3 thoughts on “All These Books To Read

  1. IntrovertedAnalyst

    My biggest problem with my own stories is that I’m lazy. I know what happens (roughly) and would like to read them, I just have to keep fighting to write them. And books never help because they’re so distracting, especially if they’re by an author I love (damn you, Unfinished Tales, giving me all these cool drafts and backstories on Galadriel…)
    I know for me books have always been my default way to lose myself and explore, as cheesy as it sounds. I’m still learning how to use writing to that effect, but seeing the differences in style for different writers and how they’ve made their varying stories work is
    But in re your last question- word. In every possible sense of the answer :)

    1. G.P. Merwede Post author

      One of my biggest issues is keeping disciplined in my writing – so it fits into the same vein as yours. I have all of these stories that I want to tell, but I have ADD and tend to jump between loyalties with them. I need to hunker down and choose one story to write.

      There are two trains of thought on being an undiscovered writer – much like a rock band – you have infinite time to hone and shape your first release, but there may be a lack of motivation because you may not get paid after you put all that time and effort into it.

      It definitely helps to know that you’ll be getting a bag of greenbacks once you finish a novel.

      And like I mentioned, reading will help you explore those worlds that you would like to reshape and repolish with your own stories. Obviously not stealing ideas, but there are definite threads of commonalities between writers and those who inspired them.

      There is oodles of Bradbury in my fantasy – although wholly my own style, I would not be surprised for critics to cry foul.

      But then again, I have to write the damn thing before they can.


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