Friday, 5 September 2014

What Should All Aspiring Authors Read?

Someone recently asked me what aspiring writers should read to help them hone in on their craft. I think they were expecting a ‘how to write’ guide of some sort, but that’s not what I’d recommend at all. There are alternatives which I think are much more helpful, and they all stem around reading lots and doing so with a critical mind.

Get ready for lots of links!

If you haven't already, read both old and new material withing your genre. Real published books too, rather than writing site drafts. Goodreads and LibraryThing are a great place to start, and amazon  can often provide titles for 1p plus packagin (£2.70) from alternate sellers. Alternatively, you can walk to a bookshop or library, unless you’re like me and sorta forgot you had legs there...

The second option is to read books which are highly recommended in general. From these, you’ll learn what’s trendy now as well as how to do it right in general, and possibly what you can add to your genre. If you haven’t read The Book Thief or The Kite Runner then you’re missing out.

Don't worry if you'r reading something terrible. Instead, try to work out why it's so bad. Plus, doesn't it  show you that being published isn’t reserved for the special few? If they can do it, so can you!

When you read, do it critically. If something works, ask yourself why. If it doesn’t, make sure you’re not doing something similar. Unsure how to use a semicolon? See how other books use them. Got to write love scene soon? Then reread your past favourites and work out why they’re good.

Writers and Artists Yearbook is often recommended to authors. I can’t understand why. I did learn copyright laws... but everything else you can pick up as you go, and the massive directory of publishers and agents is an outdated way to search information. In this day and age, google is your friend. Afterwards check out AgentQuery or QueryTracker for more on those agents (don’t forget their twitter accounts). WritersDigest is probably the best site for agent listings, as they’ll tell you about new agents who are currently building their client lists – a fantastic resource.

And now for self-help guilds... I’ve skimmed some and haven’t been too impressed, either because the writer was biased towards a style or full of unspecific, waffling generalities. Nothing beats reading novels and working out what speaks to you, but I will recommend Nathan Bransford’s e-book. I haven’t read all of it, but I have read his blog...

Blogs! Read blogs. There’s tons of free advice out there from editors, agents, publishers, avid readers – you name it. Posting a question to writing communities can lead to a mix of dodgy and good advice, but reading researched articles should skip out all that guessing.

Knew I’d almost forget blogs...