Monday, August 16, 2010

HOW CAN YOU BE A WRITER IF YOU'RE NOT A READER?

I read a number of blogs. An agent writes one blog I regularly read. On this particular occasion there was an informal discussion going on between several agents and editors, chatting about a dichotomy between readers and writers. The gist of it was that there were a whole lot of writers out there that weren’t readers. People convinced that they had a “book or two in them,” but they weren't readers. Then there were the writers who felt you shouldn't read other’s work in your genre because it would interfere with your "voice".

To me, the question has always been how can you effectively write a book if you don't read them? Base it on TV? Your fascinating life? Because you're a professional writer on the job?

I write many things professionally, articles, seminars, notes, and lots of reports. I'm writing something every day and while I don't have the time to read six or more books a week anymore, I do read something everyday. I read for pleasure. I also read to keep an eye out for what is selling, what’s not, styles of writing, and premises used.

I write creatively and have completed three 90k contemporary romance manuscripts of a trilogy and I'm working on a paranormal trilogy. So, I'd say I had “a book or two in me”. I’ve told stories all my life. I come from a very creative family of oral storytellers and published authors.

My love of books came from reading voraciously throughout my life. As a child my parents and grandparents felt to be well read one must read classic literature first. I was also encouraged to branch out and explore various genres, not just one. Consequently, I regularly read various sub-genres of romance; paranormals, suspense and thrillers, and I love Sci-fi. You could say I'm a mood driven reader. I'm the same with music for much of the same reasons--my parents and grandparents.

There is a perception out there that you can't read another’s words when formulating your stories--something nonsensical about copying the voice or premise, yada yada. To me, that's BS. My voice is mine and doesn’t change just because I read someone’s work.

I often think about how coaches train their athletes. It isn't by ignoring the competition. To the contrary, they watch recorded games of the competition so they can be better. Actors know the style of other actors—they watch them. You don't think musicians aren't aware of those who produce the same style of music? Or artists aren't aware of whose style is similar?

As an author, to know what’s marketable you have to read it. Analyze it. That’s keeping your finger on the pulse of market.

I’m a marketing/promotion rep by profession, to sell my products and people; I have to be familiar with what’s out there. Is their product comparable? Better? Worse? How is it packaged? Any book I write is my product and to market it effectively I have to know what’s selling, what my target demographics are and why.

So, you want to be an author? Read. Particularly in your genre. Know what’s selling out there and why.

What are your thoughts about this?


  • What kinds of books do you like to read? By all means share some good ones with  us!

I'll share the covers of a few I've read recently that I've thoroughly enjoyed. 


9 comments:

LuAnn said...

Oh, Sia, I totally agree. No matter what type of writing a person does, they really do need to read to be successful.

tonya kappes said...

I do read a lot. AND read everything in my genre and outside the genre I like to write. If I'm working on a mystery, I will read the latest mystery novels and vice versa. I'm currently venturing in the idea of paranormal YA, so I picked up Hex Hall which is pretty good:)

Sun Singer said...

Well said. Hard for to imagine people who don't read, but especially writers.

Malcolm

Conda V. Douglas said...

If I don't have at least three books around to be read, I panic. A writer who is not a reader? Never met a one.

Kat Sheridan said...

Voracious reader here. But not while I'm in the writing mood. I'll write for awhile, then set it aside and read for awhile. I can't imagine writers who don't read. I don't imitate writers I love, but I am inspired by them.

Olivia Cunning said...

Oh look, it's my book cover! I'm glad you enjoyed it, Sia.

I do read. Not as much as I'd like, because I don't have time. I do read a little every day. It might only be a few pages, but I must read something every day or I get antsy. That said, I don't read much in the sub-genre I write. Not because I think I'll copy a voice or a premise, but because I get enough of my "sub-genre" when I write, tyvm, and would like something a little different when I read.

VA said...

Reading and writing. I think one can be influenced by a writer, but I think each writer has a unique voice once they harness it. That's the pickle, honing one's voice so it is clear among the crowd.

Knowing the field is critical in any endeavor whether it is writing a book and effectively marketing it or fighting a battle. The premises are the same.

That said, I am dawdling between two fields at the moment. I need to commit.

~Sia McKye~ said...

I love your cover Olivia! I loved the story even more. Very well done and totally held my interest throughout the story. Loved the laughter and comraderie between the band members.

L. Diane Wolfe said...

Totally agree! How can you effectively write if you don't read?