Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Voracious Readers Required

Let's just say it bang: If you're writing a book, and you don't read voraciously, you are not serious about becoming successfully published.

From Kate Hart's Fabulous Flowchart on How To Get Published:   
Have you read widely in your genre?

No, I don't want to taint my genius.

Get over yourself & go read.
Carol Muske Dukes, the Poet Laureate of California, and author of a number of books of poetry and several novels, says there is one “sure sign” someone is a writer: “A writer reads constantly, reads everything she can get her hands on, tears apart libraries and bookstores, never is without a book in hand.”  (from PsychCentral's The Creative Mind.)

Another guy who knows a little bit about writing, Stephen King, said, "If you don't have time to read, you don't have time to write."

We need to read books in our genre.  We need to read books, articles and blogs about the craft of writing.  We need to read books that are not in our genre, but perhaps do an excellent job at something we are trying to do: great characters, strong plotting, well-done multiple POV's, creative ways to blend in background details.  We need to hold our noses and re-examine books that failed to hold our interest, and unpack why that happened.

If we're novelists, we should also consider screenplays, both for movies and television.  The brevity and pacing of screenplays can be helpful.  We can see how an entire relationship might be revealed in two lines of dialogue and a look.  (Unlike my usual wordiness, yikes!)

Want readers to keep turning the page?  We can learn from TV's pacing, the way action builds to a mini-cliffhanger right before each commercial break.   Whether it's Desperate Housewives, or my old favorite, Lost in Space.

(I have to say, Mark Goddard fired off many a rocket in my pre-adolescent imagination, big time.  Well, maybe I didn't have to say it, but wasn't he gorgeous?)

They say in regards to good sex, which for some odd reason I have digressed to, that those who understand their own bodies, what pleases them, what they do and don't like, are much better love partners than those who are unaware.

So, too, with writing.  If we are trying to create an all-enveloping, magic world that our readers enter and never want to leave, we had better know for ourselves what that feels like.  If we don't, how can we create a satisfying experience for our readers?

I don't want people to read my work and say, "Eh, that was okay.  Next!"  I want readers to be passionately involved with my work.  I want them to be so enraptured they can't put it down, so buzzed they tell all their friends how much they loved it.  So delighted they want to repeat the experience over and over again (see good sex, above.)  I want us to be Rhett and Scarlett, tangled together to the very last page.

Which reminds me, it's just about time for me to re-read Gone With The Wind.

What are your experiences as a Voracious Reader?
What books, articles, or sources helped you in ways you didn't expect?