Read Everything?

Books and butterflies

Dr. Tanya continues her Blogging Insights series this week with a quote from George R.R. Martin about how we (as writers) should read everything we can. You know, of course, that Martin is the author of the Game of Thrones books, not that everyone has read those or even seen one episode of GOT on TV. How do we know when people have no interest in GOT? Easy… they’ll announce it repeatedly! Anyway, Dr. Tanya would like to know how we feel about Martin’s advice: “You need to read everything. Read fiction, non-fiction, magazines, newspapers. Read history, historical fiction, biography. Read mystery novels, fantasy, SF, horror, mainstream, literary classics, adventure, satire. Every writer has something to teach you, for good or ill. (And yes, you can learn from bad books as well as good ones — what not to do).”

I don’t read everything. Life is too short to read boring books or genres we dislike, which is why I usually eschew history, historical fiction, and biography, though naturally I have read some or else I wouldn’t have discovered it isn’t my cuppa. I also don’t read much non-fiction in general, though there are exceptions for owls and other interesting creatures. Real people aren’t usually that interesting to me, which is why I prefer fiction most of the time ~ imaginary characters and situations are vastly more intriguing than real ones, with a few exceptions. I don’t read a lot of science fiction or fantasy, but I can be hooked in on occasion, especially if a story contains something cool like a dragon. I dislike horror these days, though I read a bunch of it in the past (King and Koontz, mostly). Same goes for erotica. Yawn…

I note that Martin doesn’t include romance in his list, which I’m sure was just an oversight. There are a ton of good romance novels out there, some of which are now classics, such as Pride and Prejudice. I go in phases of reading Regency romance, but sometimes I prefer stories set in the present day. In fact, lately I’m more intrigued by what writers do with the world as it exists right now and how the protagonist deals with the challenges presented by current political realities, Covid-19 concerns, the insane economy, etc. One of the problems I have with romances is that they’re too fantastical with little acknowledgement of risks and consequences or dollars and cents. Yet other times they offer me a nice escape from all that; it just depends on my mood.

I don’t read many magazines and newspapers these days, though I check the news online from several sources a few times per day. Many of the articles online feel rushed and poorly proofread (if at all), which is something to learn, as Martin says, about what not to do, such as toss off a crappy piece of work just to meet a deadline. I began a couple books lately and didn’t get very far before abandoning them. Focus on one character at the start of a story. Hook us in by creating an emotional attachment to the protag (good or bad). Give us some action before droning on about the protag’s parents, street names, HOA rules, and other boring nonsense. Most of that should be cut on an edit anyway. I periodically remind myself of all this too when I have the time and energy to work on my stories.

Happy writing!

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©️2022 Paula Light and Light Motifs II. No unauthorized use permitted.

13 responses to “Read Everything?

  1. I don’t read everything either. With so much to read and only limited time, why bother with things that aren’t interesting? It’s kind of like with dessert—you could try everything under the sun, but you’d miss out on so many delicious cupcakes because you’re getting distracted!

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  2. I read a lot for research, but I should read more for pleasure.

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  3. To be an excellent writer we also must be a voracious reader. The more we read, the more material we have for our own writing.

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  4. I used to be a huge fan of Regency romances too (think Georgette Heyer) but I’m not reading any these days. This ties in with your experience of one’s preferred reading genres over time.
    Reading “across genres ” is a piece of writint advice that I keep coming across these days. This made me pick up The Testaments and I have now become hooked on Margaret Atwood.

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