Saturday, November 20, 2010

Reading to Write

If you're an aspiring author, you've probably been advised a thousand times to read voraciously, especially in your chosen genre or subgenre, if you've chosen one yet.  (((Tip: It's probably the one you like to read the most.)))  Well, I'm here to testify that I took this advice and it worked.  In fact, I'm still taking this advice, which is why you see cover art for books by Lori Devoti and Lisa Shearin here.  More on that later in this post. 
Reading a lot helped me figure out what genre/subgenre my own stories belonged in.  This was very hard, because when I first started my path to publication four years ago there weren't many books like the ones I write.  I found I loved Science Fiction Romance and Young Adult novels the most, also Historicals.  This resulted in two YA space operas, one YA Time Travel, and one earthbound YA SFR which I call YA Paranormal.  The YA Paranormal, Sugar Rush, is the one, as you may know, that scored a publishing contract. 
There are other reasons to read voraciously on the path to publication, but I'll tell you just one more.  It puts you in touch with authors who've already achieved the dream. 
Harsh Reality:   Almost None Of Them Will Have Time to Mentor You. 
This is because they're expected to write a novel or two a year and possibly short stories, promo them what seems like constantly, and all on top of their day jobs.  (I have four children!  That's a day AND night job.)  Only bestselling novelists like J.K. Rowling and Stephanie Meyer get paid well in this line of work.  The rest of us have to scratch out a living like the rest of you.  So, it's not that they don't love you, it's that they really and seriously do not have the time. 
You can still learn a lot from these exhausted authors, just by reading what they wrote.  It drives the writer's craft into your subconscious mind.  Some aspects of writing come naturally and some don't.  For example, I had to learn the hard way how to structure a story and I still have to work very hard at it.  Also, some of these authors do have excellent writers' resources on their websites and/or write blogs.  So, they might not have time to personally mentor you, but they can provide general help.
And they can lead you to someone who can provide specialized guidance.  I repeat this story all the time, it seems.  I stumbled on Susan Grant's Blog four years ago.  I learned about  Linnea Sinclair  from her.  I followed Linnea to the Alien Romances blog, which is where I found Jacqueline Lichtenberg who was able to provide me with specialized guidance by email,, the Alien Romance blog, her Sime-Gen  website, and her blog, Editing Circle
Having said all that, now I can explain the cover art.  I'm gearing up to polish a short story set in the Ophelia Dawson universe, Bianca and the Blood Sucking Dead Guy.  It's written in First Person, which is a Point-Of-View I've never seriously tried.  Bianca demands it though, and so I'm doing my best.  Also, I'm gearing up to write the next novel in the Ophelia Dawson Chronicles, which is Sugar Baby.  And I have a lot of heavy world-building to do.
Lori Devoti and Lisa Shearin both write in excellent First Person Point of View AND they are both awesome world-builders.  I know because I've already read their books.  So, now that I need to write stuff I feel very unconfident about I can go back and reread their books for inspiration.  I suggest you check them out too.
Seriously, if you're going to read to write, you might as well start a book review blog.  Pretty soon, you'll be hip-deep in FREE advanced readers copies.  Hey, it worked for me.

1 comment:

Nayuleska said...

Wow - you're so like me! This is definitely true. By having a review blog (with some lovely free books (which are a bonus and not the aim of the blog and I write fair reviews)) it gets me reading. I know which themes are currently popular in different genres. I'm seeing that there is a gap in the market for my wips, that the topic hasn't been written about to death.

I read a lot of first person POV, but never used to write it. Had only written one story in 1st, and that's a story which will never see the light of day. At least for now.

I stuck to third person for all my drafts. I thought it was ok, but my readers weren't getting a zing from my work (not consistently). I've learnt a lot about writing novels since then.

My current wip is undergoing a major rewrite. An author I know is a real sweetheart and has spared some time to read my work (and will continue to do so, although probably not commenting on it). This is very rare, and I must stress as Kimber does that most do not have time to help out. I understand why this is the case, and love my author friend to pieces.

She read 2-3 versions of chapter 1 of my wip, all in 3rd person. I still wasn't hitting the mark. One day I got a bit annoyed, and decided to try first person.

It worked. It hit the mark. It still needed a little polishing, but that was minor stuff. I'd found the voice for the novel. Yay!

So read read read!!! And don't be afraid to try different styles of writing. Not all novels need the same voice. Some of mine may need 3rd person, and several POVs.