Writers must read.
We read writers who are in our market niche, because these are often the kind of books we most enjoy. And, it pays to know what the competition is up to.
We read writers who, because of the topic or complexity of writing, write far outside our comfort zone because we need at least a nodding acquaintance with the full writing spectrum.
A word of caution here.
The captain of the Titanic didn’t need to see the entire iceberg to know he had a problem. ~Denise Tiller, mysery writer
If a book deals with too much violence or graphic subjects, don’t feel compelled to read the entire thing. Start at the beginning and read until the first disturbing detail is reached. Once, for me, that was the third sentence. I knew, at that point, that continuing to read would do me more harm than good.
We read great writers because it’s a pleasure to see how well the craft can be done, and we read lousy writers because it’s also a good idea both to see how badly the craft it is done, and to console ourself that we write lots, lots better than that.
One thing I want to do this year is build an essential bookshelf of books and other references that mean a lot to writers. The blog on the last Tuesday of every month will be Build a Bookcase.
This month, let’s start with what was the first book that got us seriously interested in writing? And why?
Mine was Natalie Goldberg’s Writing Down the Bones: Freeing the Writer Within, published in 1986.
By the time I read Writing Down the Bones, I’d been hobby writing for twenty-four years. I’d churned out short stories, some rather regrettable fan fic, and at least two complete novels (neither published to this day, thank goodness). I’d kept a journal for eight years. I’d even gotten a degree in English/Creative Writing. And I was pretty sure that I’d nailed this writing thing.
Boy, was I in for a surprise. For me, this book cracked open the difference between writing and living a writing life. I realized I had to stop writing behind closed doors, and start writing in cafes and other public places. I had to find some writing partners. I had to find the extraordinary in the ordinary. I had to learn to allow flow to happen, back and forth, between writing and living. And, a whole bunch of other things that I’m still learning and polishing today.
This is one of three books that I still keep close at hand, in a little wooden box, less than a foot away from my keyboard, just in case I need a quick refresher.
What book got you started on seriously writing?
Going back to the Marathon Writer — Spiral Effect that I started the year with four weeks ago, here’s a followup on why sitting and writing is a bad idea. In the past week, the longevity columnist on CBC Calgary Drive Home – why sitting is bad for us gave the best summary I’ve heard so far about why sitting is so bad for us. It’s 7 minutes, 20 seconds long.