Greetings real and imaginary readers.
Last week, I had the wonderful pleasure of being interviewed by the Bookworm’s Fancy. It’s an incredible blog that helps new writers promote their work. You might want to check it out.
In the interview, Erin, the blogger, asked me to give some advice to non-published writers.
I’d like to expand upon what we discussed in the interview.
You see, one of the cardinal commandments of writing is “Read a lot and write a lot.” Everybody knows that. But what should we read???
I’ve written before about the need to read “bad” writers.
Why bad writers??
Well, one, I believe reading bad writers shows us what is cliché and what doesn’t work. But it also gives us hope that we can “do better.” I mean, if THEY got published, can’t WE get published as well??? And HOPE is usually something that aspiring writers need. So read bad writers. At the very least, they’ll show you that you don’t need to be a Hemingway to get published!
Although other writers disagree with me on this, I also think that we need to read outside of our genre. Let me explain.
Riddle in Stone is an “epic fantasy.” I love epic fantasies. Tolkien got me hooked on reading and writing. So that’s what I tend to read and write about.
But my story isn’t just about magic and goblins and sword fights. All of that is certainly in my book, but (hopefully) there is a lot more.
For example, there’s a romance between my main character (Edmund) and the village beauty (Molly). There is also a “bro-mance” between Edmund and another male character named “Pond Scum” (you’ll have to read the book to understand the name). There’s also a mystery surrounding the riddle Edmund finds. And there’s a good horror scene in the book (Not to toot my own horn, but an editor from a big publishing house called it the “best torture scene” she’s ever read! Seriously! THE BEST! SUCK IT STEPHEN KING!!!!)
The point is . . . all books are more than their “genre.”
I needed to know something about sociology and psychology and anthropology and architecture and people and a million other things. In order for my bad guys to make sense, I had to understand why they would be the way they were. I also had to understand how living in the frozen far north would affect the clothes people would wear, their customs, and so forth. For instance, I can’t put orange trees around Edmund’s hometown because it’s too cold. The fact that Edmund grew up around snow made me realize that he probably played in the snow as a child. So he would know about sledding (there is actually a critical scene where he teaches Pond Scum, who has never seen snow before, how to sled).
So read histories! Read biographies! Read about everything, because everything needs to be in your “epic fantasy” world. I’ve read enough biographies about Hitler to make (hopefully) my bad guy more human. He just isn’t “pure evil” for the sake of being evil. He has a reason for being the way he is.
Finally, I want to recommend that you read new writers.
Ah!! That’s a bit self-serving of me, isn’t it! I’m trying to get you to buy my book!
Maybe . . . But hear me out.
If you pick up a book by one of the greats—Hemingway, Tolkien, King, Rowlings, whomever. . . you’re probably going to feel as if you need to like it. After all, you’re an aspiring writer – how DARE you find fault with the God-like Tolkien!!! SACRILIEGE!!!!! He’s sold more books than you ever will so how can you criticize his work!! Right?
The same thing with every other great and famous writer.
We read their work EXPECTING the book to be great! And if we disagree, we kind of feel guilty…like we aren’t smart enough to see why everybody is crazy about it.
HOWEVER, if you read a new writer, a writer whom you have never heard of before, you are far more likely to be able to evaluate it objectively. You could pick up a new author’s book and say, “Oh, I really like how he did…” Or, “Boy, that really fell flat! I would have done it like…”
Reading new writers allows you to more clearly assess what works and what doesn’t without all the bias of what other people and the media throw at you.
There’s one last point that I want to make here.
If you write to the BIG writers, the best sellers . . . you probably won’t get any response. But if you write to a new author, you probably will. I would LOVE for a reader to contact me and ask about writing! It’s hugely flattering (hint, hint, hint). What new writer wouldn’t dig getting fan mail and helping out a fellow newbie??
So that’s my advice about reading. Read a lot, yes! Read bad authors to see what they do wrong and to give yourself a bit of a pep talk. Read a wide variety of books, even if they don’t relate to your genre. And read new writers, because we need you and we can help you become better writers more than those bastard millionaires who don’t even care enough to answer their blasted e-mails! I’m talking about you Tolkien!!!
That’s if for now. Thanks for stopping by . . . and all of the support you all have been giving me. I appreciate it!!