Lessons Learned: Reading

I read a lot these days. Last year was almost entirely books of short stories and books on writing or publishing. This year I’m transitioning to novels, but I find myself drawn to a different sort of novel than I have been in the past. I’m a lot less picky about genre and a lot more picky about authors.

I’m reading primarily for characters. I want to spend time with good people. Even the villains in the books I enjoy aren’t monsters. They’re people losing the struggle we all face to be good. Or making understandable mistakes. Or they are led by their passions slowly, inexorably, into evil. I’m transfixed by this.

I still love lush settings and my taste for them has increased in the last few years. My book club introduced me to books that I wouldn’t have chosen on my own and they were mostly rich with setting. My favorite remains A Gentleman in Moscow.

One of the important lessons I learned in the last year was that the moment I forgot I was reading, forgot I was in a book, that was the moment that the writer had me. I finished the story or the novel and then went back to see what the author did. How they trapped me in their world so thoroughly that I never wanted to leave. Or couldn’t look away.

Most of the time I couldn’t figure it out by reading it again. And, in a cruel twist of fate, I’d often find myself trapped again in the same prose, coming out of it only after I’d gotten well-passed the trap point. Dean says that in those moments, you need to type or handwrite the words into your own document. That way it slows down the trap so that you can see it operating and it gets your brain out of reader-mode and into writer-mode. Best tip ever! Or at least one of the best tips.

This may seem like a distraction from writing 52 short stories in 52 weeks, but sometimes I just needed to learn how to write something from a master story-teller. This trick helped hone my craft and broke open new ideas when I was stuck.

So that is today’s Lesson Learned in the last year. Read good books and then type in the parts that caused you to forget you were reading. Don’t cut and paste. The whole point is to get the fingers typing and slowing down the reading. Cut and paste is fast. And useless.

I hope you are immersed in good books. Be well, friends!

2 Comments Add yours

  1. Just something to consider…reading for characters might be why you’ve had issues with world building. I read books for characters, but it didn’t occur to me (until I took the genre. It was very eye opening to discover that I’d been overbalancing on characterization and underbalancing on setting.

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  2. That is interesting! Perhaps that’s the case for me as well.

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