Easter's Lilly

Saturday, July 2, 2011

What Writers Read

Growing up, I struggled with dyslexia, which made it difficult for me to really enjoy reading. I found it interesting that I had always been a writer though. I think part of the dilemma was the types of books they give you in school to read. Now, I know my teacher friends out there are going to yell at me, but books that were written back in the 1920’s simply do not interest a young adult in high school nowadays. When I was a kid, the books we were given to read were so out of date, that understanding the books, especially with the addition of my learning challenge, became an all consuming, torturous task.

Now that I have learned to overcome my dyslexia challenge, for the most part, I LOVE to read. Lately I have been reading more and more books that are not in my genre and I believe that as a result of this, my writing is suffering, just a bit. Nothing major yet but not being submersed in the genre certainly takes its toll.  My husband pointed out to me that I used to feverishly finish the books I was reading and then begin to zealously write until my fingers bled.

I read up on some pretty famous authors and some of them say to read EVERYTHING! I began to do that and must humbly disagree. I am not sure if it is my learning challenge or just my attention span, but if a book is not in my genre, it will take me forever to finish it. If a book is in my genre, I’ll devour it in two days…tops! When I was a young songwriter, I remember my dad saying to me, “You will have to choose a style. You will eventually write what you let inside.” Wise words, I must admit.

So, I think it is time to be honest with myself and love what I read as much as I love what I write. Books that take a running start off a cliff are certainly the ones that keep my attention. Romance, love, even forbidden desire are all on my list of must-reads and it is time I get back to it. So, Lilly and her family can rest assured that I will no longer leave them holding their breath, waiting for me to write their happy endings. I think I’ll just take a day off and read, read, read…


  1. Believe it or not I mainly read ancient historical w/o romantic or mystery elements. They can be Christian or not. I write futuristic crime thrillers; sci-fi, and urban and classic fantasy. I HAVE read pretty much every genre' from literary to pulp fiction but ancient historical is remains my favorite. A great example of what I love to read is Colleen McCullough's Masters of Rome series!

  2. I read a variety of stuff - historical, horror, poetry, memoir, "how to write" books, a smattering of westerns, thriller, mystery, experimental. I think they all add another facet to my writing. Even though I like horror the best, I find I learn by reading a variety of genres. Also, I've taken classes in a multitude of genres. I participated in a class in "experimental" through UCLA - I'd never heard of experimental - and out of that class came one of my best-ever stories.

  3. In ON WRITING Stephen King says that he reads at least one of the classics each year. I think this is a good approach--and I do find that reading outside my genre stretches me a bit. But I have to admit to feeling more like you the further I get along in my writing career. I recently picked up a much recommended and well regarded memoir. It's wonderfully written--and yet I felt an urgency to return to suspense, and I haven't yet fully come to terms with why...Interesting topic for a post and food for thought.

  4. I do love reading memoir's from others. I have always enjoyed reading about personal journeys so I suppose that's what drives me to write memoir. However, I read so many genres that I'm not sure it's actually a fair statement to say that I write what I read. But when you boil it down I suppose the answer is yes. My next book I'll be jumping ship to explore fiction so I guess I'm a mixed bag! (don't call me an old bag!) ;)

  5. Thank you, P.I., Karen, Jenny and Susie for your input. I was interested in finding out if I am the only one who feels this way. I just graduated from college last year and I have been reading all kinds of genres. I especially do not like the books that they read in high school classrooms. (I was going to be a teacher). I must admit that I do enjoy poetry quite a bit and W.B. Yeats is my favorite poet. I do also write poetry and songs though. I enjoyed Shakespeare, although would probably never read it on my own, and from time to time I will pick up a book that will improve me in some way if something peaks my interest. But when it comes down to it, truth be told, my own genre is the one that keeps me reading.

  6. I really like Koontz and that type of thriller - but I write mostly YA with some adult (not in the erotic style) short stories. I feel that once I have my two YA sequels written I will move into writing in the genre I read - but who knows?

  7. Thank you, Brenda. I am writing a YA spin off of my first adult series and I have to say that it is considerably more difficult to write than my usual romantic type, story lines. I suspect it is because I don't normally read YA, so it's harder for me to identify.

    Loving these comments. Interesting stuff!

  8. An author friend of mine sent me his take on this question. I liked it so much that I asked him if I could post it and he agreed. I wanted to share this will all of you.

    What I Write and What I Like
    Wayne Zurl

    In 1996 I began writing non-fiction for publication. I chose Colonial American history and the novels of James Fenimore Cooper as topics. After ten years of pursuing that and twenty-six published magazine articles later, I grew tired of the routine and wanted to try writing my own fiction.
    I started a novel about the Vietnam War. After four chapters I decided the language I used was so atrocious, I’d be embarrassed if some family members or people I knew read what I wrote. So, I abandoned that idea. I wanted the story to be authentic and knew first hand that GIs wouldn’t say, “Oh, fiddlesticks! These dastardly Viet Cong set a nasty booby trap and now my good friend must go home without his legs.” I’ve read less than a half dozen novels about Vietnam.
    For years I read historical fiction almost exclusively. Bernard Cornwell is probably my favorite author in that genre, but I’ve also read everything written by Kenneth Roberts, and things by John Brick, Everett Tomlinson, Joseph Altscheller, Bruce Lancaster, Frank Slaughter and others.
    I believe that from my personal interests and years of research, I’m qualified to write a credible novel about the French and Indian War of 1754 to 1763. I only have to come up with a storyline and get into gear.
    As a young man I read much non-fiction about the old west. So, I could write a classic western, although I don’t read many old-west novels. I started one once, completed two chapters and then satisfied my need of cranking out a western by turning it into a short story. I loved it and most of the people who reviewed it did, too. Perhaps a full-length novel is in my future.
    Some day I’d like to write something about the American Civil War because an ancestor fought in that conflict and his sword hangs on a wall in my home. The problem is, I know very little about the conventional battles of the War Between the States. Maybe I’ll satisfy this intention by placing my great, great, great uncle in a bit of period unconventional warfare. I could draw from personal experience and handle that.
    I worked as a police officer in New York for twenty years. During that time I rarely read any cop fiction or watched police TV shows or feature films. After I retired someone gave me a copy of a police mystery by James Lee Burke. I thought it was better than excellent and I became hooked. Now I read many police and detective novels and stories.
    Then I decided to write my own. I chose to follow the old author’s maxim of write about what you know. I picked a retired New York detective working as a police chief in rural East Tennessee. Coincidentally, after I retired we moved to that area. I can cover both the professional angle and the venue with first hand knowledge.
    To me authenticity is very important and sometimes all the research in the world can’t replace having lived what you write about.