You Should Be Writing. Why Are You Reading This?

That’s what you’re thinking, and that’s what people are trying to say to encourage people to meet their deadline this month. But Saturday I started a series about NaNoWriMo trying to break the stigma that anyone not writing, or writing something new, isn’t really working on their story. Fact of the matter is that most of writing is actually reading.

I don’t mean just proof reading or rereading text for the sake of a rewrite. I’m talking about taking in new ideas. Not story ideas, although there is something to be said that your favorite stories are clever rip offs of better stories (Lion King/Hamlet, etc.). I mean learning how to set mood. Learning how to write dialog. Learning how vague or descriptive to make a narrative. Most importantly, you learn how to set reader expectations and how to keep them interested.

Certainly not least of all, there are many of types of writing. A narrative fiction writer isn’t going to immediately excel at children’s books or news articles without a base to learn from. Same is true for genres and audiences. Breaking into that next type of literature is dependent upon how much of it you can consume first.

I am a very picky reader. The latest series I’ve been reading has been Edison Crux’s Enoc Tales. It takes a lot to get me to read a particular story because reading is most of my daily job. I spend every day reading articles, tutorials, reference manuals, problem reports, requirements, and even source code. And after work is done, I’m reading tabletop game manuals and discussions on the hobby. When my attention turns towards fiction, it takes a lot of urging from friends. Without that being such a significant part of my day, I don’t think I’d ever have had the faintest interest in writing. And as much as I can get fatigued staring down faintly glowing PDFs and Stack Overflow threads, I wouldn’t trade it for anything.

This is where you fall in love with genre’s. I find that tabletop gamers grow up around Tolkein and Lovecraft. I grew up obsessed with the Chronicles of Prydain. If I hadn’t had the Hobbit read to me as a child, would I have ever found these books? I don’t think that I would have traded in my Superman cape for toy swords. My collection of swords, maces, and axes wouldn’t be proudly behind my work desk. More importantly, I would have never spent time playing Redd the fiery tempered Dwarven machinist with a war hammer that turned monsters into toads.

Everyone has formed their ensemble cast of favorite stories. This has found the elements of the stories that you enjoy, and what you’d like to see explored. Perhaps you’ll find a new story to read that retells a chance meeting of two powerful witches, or perhaps you will write it yourself.

As with the anecdote I’ve left above about my own life, to become a writer you’re going to learn the ropes through reading. For every tutorial I find about integrating a new database solution, a writer is going to find 10 longer articles about how to create working outlines, how to keep character bibles, and how to perfect a biography to help sell the next book. This is where to start. Find out what to expect, what needs done, and the most comfortable way to do it. You can accomplish more for your story by reading these kinds of advice columns than by quickly spilling out 10 pages of text.

So decide what you’re accomplishing with your story and read more about it. Every finishing line for your story has a different set of steps. Heading for self publishing? You’ve got a lot to learn about proof reading, advertising, and the best places to sell. But if you’re looking for a traditional publishing deal, you’ve got a week of reading ahead of you before you even know if that’s the right choice for you. Here’s the resource that helped me the most to decide that self publishing was what I wanted.

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