Invasive Writing-Therapy Through Study

Forgive me writing-father, for I have sinned. It has been eight months since I read my last novel.

I hate reading pop-culture fantasy novels. I hate thumbing through the Bestsellers list and purchasing a book based on looks and jacket blurb alone. Unlike most writers, I don’t read heavily. I’m not a dedicated studier of the Teen Choice novel club winners. I don’t buy for fun.

I don’t read for fun. My friends hate me because of my criticisms of otherwise “great” writing/movies/music. My family is one of education-through-conflict. My fiancee is a vegan republican. My world revolves around competition-based knowledge.

My passion is writing, and unlike a lot (it seems? Don’t quote me on it) of the writers I read about here and elsewhere (and not the ones I follow…), leads me to criticize my tail off when I observe a story. Not only that, but I have absolutely no problem tossing a book aside if, after the first two chapters, I’m not sold on the characters. My time is infinitely more valuable than reading failed characters in a failed environment.

Lawhead’s The Skin Map is one of those books. I saw the cover and went, “Heck yes! My style of book!” After reading the lame, buddy-buddy alternative reality 1800’s London for three chapters, I closed it and haven’t picked it back up again. (As an alternative to this, after reading Simmons’ Drood, I told everyone how perfect a novel it is and actually bought the hardcover.) I have Lawhead’s Robin Hood trilogy. I have his Byzantium. He’s a solid writer in the last 2/3’s of his books. Getting into the rhythm, though, he fails miserably.

Charles de Lint is another love/hate relationship. His environments are breathtaking, his characters dynamic, earthy, fey. His dialogue? Blows.

Good books–no, great books are hard to find. I think they’re being drowned out by all the mediocre books focused on being sold to the populace, and great modern fantasists like Neil Gaiman and de Lint and Simmons are too few and far-between.

Which brings me to the point of this blog: I have to study my market, and not only the incredible books, but the successful sellers, too. I must wade through The Bad Books (in my opinion).

The last whim-purchase I made was Autumn, a zombiepocalypse novel by some self-published guy that got enough attention some major publisher picked him up. I bought it because I wanted to see what calibre writing one needed to self-publish. It was a success story. People said it was pretty solid. I read the first chapter and almost cried: I wrote the same scene in 8th grade. The characters weren’t compelling, the “event” was uninteresting, and the characters reacted unnaturally.

I need some novels to read that are in my “genres” of writing: Urban Fantasy, Modern Fantasy, Teen Fantasy (yes. I said it. No Twilight.). I don’t know where to start. I’ll probably begin with the Hugo award nominations and move my way up from there.

Or, I will continue writing and studying the real world and leave the fluffy(?) writing to everyone else.

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2 thoughts on “Invasive Writing-Therapy Through Study

  1. I agree that time is precious when you’re writing. And the “importance of writers reading” issue is tricky because of that. I tend to read books recommended by authors whose work I admire. Admittedly, although I’m writing for a YA audience, I feel like it would be a real chore to read books within my genre (The Hunger Games has been on my list for some time now, but I keep “forgetting” to buy it).

    • Hunger Games is also on my list. I didn’t enjoy the last few series to come out of the YA scene (Twilight/Harry Potter), so I’m really reserved toward reading Hunger Games.

      I’m certain I’ll get around to it. After, you know, other stuff.

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