Random Thoughts for a Dreary Week

Thinking about a blog post (not the first I’ve seen on the subject) about how many books on writing the blogger owns or has read. A lot. And I wonder if the number of books on a writer’s list has some relationship to how much of a reader they are. I get the impression that a lot of writers (or would-be writers) don’t read very much, or read in a limited number of genres. It’s probably a very old-fashioned opinion, but I believe that the best writers have learned their craft by absorbing the rich heritage of literature. A lot of that learning is unconscious, but comes into play when they start their own journey into authorship. Lacking that background, there’s no alternative but to read books that tell you how to do everything.

Other thought of the day is the transition that I’m going through right now. For most of my writing, I’m going to be shaking off any and all genre expectations and going for the literary side of fiction. My novels haven’t fit well in any genre, and trying to think of them as cross-genre was just avoiding the real issue, that they weren’t fully developed enough for the category they belonged in. Some of my work is definitely genre, and I don’t intend to limit myself to literary fiction. The Warden, still in development, isn’t science fictionish enough to be science fiction, and trying to make it more so doesn’t make sense. The Darkest Prison is clearly psychological horror, and Ancien: Gift of Blood (with an eventual name change) is clearly science fiction, even though that aspect will need to be developed more fully. The slavery stories I have planned don’t fit anywhere unless they’re written as literary fiction. Otherwise, they fit only the fan fictionish category of slavefic, where they clearly don’t belong.

Last thought for the day is that I now have too many blogs, the latest started up in one of my occasional fits of thinking I can bring all my bright ideas to fruition. That may possibly result in abandoning the Smashwords blog, which is now looking more like a dead albatross than something the world is waiting for.

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4 thoughts on “Random Thoughts for a Dreary Week

  1. How many books on writing. GREAT question. I would add a clause to the question, though. How many books on writing have you actually READ. Yes, this ties into your theme, but I for one am big on buying reference books because I might need them some day, but somehow never get to them. King’s “On Writing” a big exception. I’ve read the whole book twice, and the second half any number of times.

    As for reading in general, I do have a favorite genre (or rather a favorite set of them), but I make myself read non-fiction and literary fiction several times a year just for balance, and because, in many cases, they’re just damn good books!

    I take a lot of my “to read” hints from friends at Goodreads or from recommendations by people I know on line.

    1. I imagine a lot of those books remain unread — lots of good intentions. But I’ve also seen discussions by and about people who do all the reading, but never get around to the writing. I’ve read very few myself. I tend to stick to reference – Strunk and White, books on editing and formatting and, of course, a good thesaurus and a dictionary. Like you, I pick up a lot from other writers. Some of the best lessons have been from the people who’ve betaed for me or commented on my writing.

  2. I’m with you about reading, Catana, writers need to read at least 8 hours a week. A writer saying they’re too busy writing to read is like a ballet dancer saying they’re too busy dancing to do barre work. Reading fiction is the fiction writer’s barre work, and far more pleasurable – and useful – than any How to book could ever be. A few How tos are ok (I never recommend more than 2 or 3), but novels are where it’s at. There the writer can learn by osmosis. And it’s better if they don’t confine the reading to the genre they’re working in, but spread themselves across the board; that way, they will bring to their own work a richness that no How to book can teach.

    1. That’s a good point, though you didn’t say it specifically. How-to books can teach the mechanics, but good writing is far more than mechanics. That’s what I’m reaching for now, I think, that place beyond plot, beyond correct use of point of view, etc. I don’t know if I have the talent to go further, but I know there *is* a “further,” and it’s something to reach for. But without a wide range of reading, I’m not sure I could keep hold of that awareness. There are novelists, and poets, too, whose work is full of something that can’t really be named. You just feel its presence. That’s what I’d like to achieve.

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