They say to be a good writer you must be a good reader. I don’t suppose anyone ever placed a gauge on the word “good”, so I take this to mean reading fiction will teach writers something. I’ve been told personally to read more, and by a professional editor no less.
They don’t tell you that after you become a writer, you’re going to be a critical reader evermore. I enjoy reading as a source of entertainment, but now I’m watching for things we aren’t supposed to do. I also watch for things that are done really well.
I snuck through the basement of the writing cabin and peered around the corner. Bento* was waiting at the top of the stairs.
“What are you doing?” He asked.
“Hiding from Lorelei**,” I said.
“She is not here. There is coffee. Come.” He turned and headed for the kitchen.
I walked into the paranormal office. The fire was out, and the will ‘o the wisp was safely in its bell jar. Bento had placed sheets over all the furniture. I went into my main office and grabbed my iPad.
I took my place in the big overstuffed chair. My muscles ached from the yard work yesterday, so I hoisted one leg onto the ottoman. Bento dropped off my coffee, made a fire and left.
I finished my six pack of horror stories. Some of them were pretty good, some of them weren’t. I suppose that’s why they were bundled together like they were. Still, I can’t complain for 99 cents. I was exposed to writers I may have never read otherwise. I may read a couple of them again.
I managed to find some errors in the tales. The last one took place during a blizzard with all the characters stuck inside an English pub. It had some really cool concepts about angels and the devil. This was a good story. I didn’t think it was the best choice when one of the characters took after the bad guys with a baseball bat. I can see an English pub having a cricket bat, but not a baseball bat.
See what I mean about being a writer? Ten years ago, I probably wouldn’t even notice. I have a theory most of our customers wouldn’t notice either.
I finished and bought the next story in The Dresden Files. I love these stories. I like the way Jim Butcher ramps up the tension. Within three chapters there were about four separate groups who wanted to kill Harry. I can’t wait to see how it all works out. The best sign is – I read about half of it today.
Still, Harry looked in the rear view mirror and gave me a complete description of himself. Writers are told never to do this. I don’t care. It worked for the story, and that’s what matters.
Bento returned with his own cup and refreshed my cup. “Why are you hiding from Miss Lorelei?”
“She wants me to write. I mean all the time. It’s not like I don’t have new ideas, and I’m even writing them down in a notebook. I just want to move ahead with my self publishing work.”
“Do you have a new story?”
“Almost. I have a half assed plot and some cool characters. I still want a McGuffin and some kind of double cross.” I checked my email and turned the iPad toward Bento.
“Is that the cover for Panama?”
“Almost. I might even have it by next weekend.”
“I hope so. Miss Lisa*** will be home soon, and I’d like to tell the Marshals it has been published.”
“You can stay as long as you like. We’ll make up a place on the couch for you if she comes back before publication.”
“While you’re feeling generous, I have some more invoices for you.” He slapped them on the coffee table.
“Grab some of that dwarven gold from the basement, and I’ll see if we can get Game of Thrones on one of these computers.”
* Bento is a supporting character in Panama. He’s filling in at the cabin while Lisa’s on vacation.
** Lorelei is my Muse. I’ve been looking over my shoulder for weeks, but she’s giving me a little space.
*** Lisa is the main character in Wild Concept. She’s a robot and works as my assistant now.
11 responses to “Writers must be Readers”
Being a reader is fun! As a writer, I find myself reading more and more about writing lately. But, I need to get more into fiction.
See, that’s what I’ve been doing for years. I have a ton of “manuals”. I admit to buying the Negative Traits Thesaurus at the same time. There are two more in this series, and I’ll probably get the rest.
I’m committed to reading much more fiction. I’m going to finish my Dresen Files story before I crack the cover on the manual.
I od love reading, and the more I read the more I tend to find myself inspired to write 😀
My next exercise was suggested on a bulletin board. I’m going to take out something I particularly liked and type out the first three or four pages. They say it helps to improve our writing. I may do this with a couple of good reads.
I often enjoy the parts of books that are considered weak points “officially” speaking. But then, I’m not terribly arty.
I’ve been struggling with this too. Crit groups and beta readers are very helpful. I believe they’re on a higher plane than the average reader though. I want to improve my writing, and work on making this progress. I wonder how many readers wouldn’t even notice some of the little things. I’m still going to keep working on it though.
Being a critical reader forevermore? I think you may relax. Your standards do go up (as those of the book publishing industry go down, as you may have noticed – in the 80’s there were hardly ever any typos in books). But the only result is that you get to enjoy really well-written books a lot more.
It’s like a professional musician going to listen to a performance. If it’s a so-so performance, the musician will not enjoy it while a lay will still do. But if it’s a great performance, the musician will be blown away by it much more than the lay who also enjoys it immensely.
I read “Shadow Crawler” and “Twilight Robbery” recently, books my daughter gave me to read. They are tremendous books. One simply relaxes and allows the performance to take one away.
Thanks. I’m going to budget more reading time from now on. That much, I know.
You are exactly right! The more I write, the more mistakes or discrepancies I notice in other books. When I started as a professional photographer, I lost a lot of appreciation for photography because now all I can see is where the photographer did something wrong technically, and I can’t appreciate the composition any more. I hope it doesn’t get so bad with books. Great post! 😀
Thanks. I am who I am. I may have to stay a critical reader forever.