Thursday, December 14, 2006

Being well read

Even if you are focusing your writing career on only one genre, you need to be well read in other areas. For example, most of my fiction writing experience is in fantasy and horror (with a once-in-a-blue-moon lapse into sci-fi or mainstream literary), but I try to be well read in other areas. Why? Not only because it helps me to be a more well-rounded writer, but it can help me find story ideas. Here are some thoughts:

1.) Best sellers: Yes, I've read "Bridges of Madison County. I'm currently reading "The Da Vinci Code." I often shy away from books that seemingly come out of nowhere to suddenly be huge hits, but I feel I have to read some of them just to remain aware of what's selling. It's good marketing sense. I discovered Harry Potter for this reason (and because my friend Becky wanted me to read the Potter books so she would have someone with whom to talk about the books), and I've enjoyed the Potter books. I also discovered Tom Clancy and Anne Rice for the same reasons, but this was back in the 1980s. Stephen King too. Even if a big seller isn't quite your cup of tea, you can learn a lot from one of them.

2.) Classical literature: Many classics of the written word are simply that, classics, great literature that will make you a better person just by reading them and thinking about their story, message, plot, themes, etc. Classics might not help you much with current marketing, but they can show you what's already been done, so you won't repeat it (and look foolish to your editor, publisher and readers). Also, by studying good literature, it can help you become a better writer.

3.) Ancient literature: Much the same as classic literature, but going back hundreds and thousands of years. The ancient Greeks had tons of stories that would make great novels today, with some updating, of course. The same could be said for the Icelandic sagas, or ancient Roman writings, even the Bible and Koran.

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