Monday, October 4, 2010

What and How to Read?

   Lots of Books

Today I visited one of my favorite book stores - Half Price Books.  Normally I check out the computer books, the software, videos, and the science fiction books.  This time I also took a look at the books on writing.  Wow!  So many books about how to write books.  I was overwhelmed.  I looked at many of the titles with the expectation that I would end up walking out with one or two in my arms.  However, after about a half hour of exploring, I came away empty handed.  Why?  Well, with all the great expertise, recommendations, and guidance on how to write the next great novel, I came away with the same conclusion that I have always had.  If you want to be a writer - read!  Nowhere else can you get a great education on how to be a writer than by reading books by other great writers.
Don't get me wrong!  I own some great books about writing:
  • The Little Brown Handbook by H. Ramsey Fowler and Jane E. Aaron
  • Novelist's Boot Camp by Todd A. Stone
  • The Writer's Home Companion by Joan Bolker, ED.D.
  • Strunk and White's The Elements of Style
  • Characters and Viewpoint by Orson Scott Card
  • Writing Science Fiction That Sells by Ben Bova
All of these are great books to have sitting by my writing desk.  However, it still boils down to three things - reading, reading, and more reading.  Not just reading like you're out in the lounge chair with a cool glass of sweet tea off to side, which is okay for enjoyment.  But, read the structure of the story.  How does the author start the book?  What keeps you interested after you get past the intro?  How are the characters defined?  How is the dialog between the characters handled?  What about what the characters are thinking?  Are the sentences short and to the point, or complex?  How is the punctuation handled?  These are the things I start to examine when I want to know how to write.

Another thing to look for is the voice of the author.  Some are very detailed, like Tom Clancy.  He could spend an entire chapter on the details of how to listen for submarines.  Others give you just enough to let the imagination run wild.  I like how Orson Scott Card gets into the mind and feelings of his characters.

So, while my time at the book store was enjoyable, I guess it would have been better spent just reading.  Back to The Rock Rats!  (Thanks Ben.)

(Library image courtesy of -Marcus- via

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