Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Read A Little To Learn A Lot.

'Read other authors to learn how to write!' they say, but what happens when you hate the book?

One occupational hazard of being a writer is reading books that you hate in order to learn what another writer is doing well. There are people who don't like Stephen King (HERETICS!), but he is such a good writer that reading his books is highly recommended for any budding author. So what do you do? Read a little to learn a lot.

Get a 'recommended book', open it at random and read two chapters from that point. It's something you can do with any book and is what historians do when researching their subject matter.

If you want to know how different authors start their books, read the first chapters and if you want to know how they end them, read the last chapters. For descriptions of events and people or for dialogue, open the book at random. If you want to discover how they plot a book, well, you'll just have to read the whole thing, but skipping any descriptive paragraphs along the way.

As a Meerkat would say, 'simples'.

On my library shelves I have a lot of books that I haven't read or only partly read for this very reason, mostly bought from charity shops or second-hand bookshops. It is my anti-library, full of wonderful authors whose writing I don't like, awful authors whose writing leaves me cold and is a wonderful resource. It's also a fabulous excuse for hoarding books.

How's that for a Christmas present? An excuse to keep every book you've bought to build your own anti-library.

On the subject of the festive season, I'm not the most christmassy of people, so it does leave me a little cold. I love the good humour of people and the general merriment, but the gift giving and cards...BAH HUMBUG. (My apologies, dear reader, if you've already spent a fortune on a gift for me and have posted it)

To that end, here's one of my favourite Christmas songs, a lovely little ditty by Weird Al Yankovic called 'Christmas at Ground Zero'.



Caitlin said...

I'd never thought of this! Granted, I can't part with a book. Even the one or two books that I stopped mid-read, unable to finish because of how much I just hated it, still sit on my shelf. My husband's been hinting at downsizing, now I can just let him know that it's my anti-library so he can shut it. Thanks!

Lisa Shafer said...

I love "Christmas At Ground Zero"!
And don't forget other Christmas classics: "Grandma Got Run Over By A Reindeer" by Elmo and Patsy, "The 12 Pains of Christmas" by Bob Rivers, "A Christmas Carol" by Tom Lehrer, and "I Yust Go Nuts At Christmas" by Yogi Yorgeson.

Martin Willoughby said...

Caitlin: Stand your ground for your anti-library!

Lisa: I shall check those out on youtube.

Milo James Fowler said...

I think King is only getting better with age. I read UNDER THE DOME this year, and I'm looking forward to getting 11/22/63 for Gizmo (my Kindle). He's a master at making us turn the pages -- even when there are over 1,000 of them!

Martin Willoughby said...

Milo: He is one of the few writers that can make 1000 pages feel like 100.

The Vegetable Assassin said...

I'm very good at buying books, reading them then passing them on to someone else. I don't usually keep them unless they're something I know I will read again. The quality ones. :)

As for Christmas I'm over it already. As a card carrying introvert I spend most of it avoiding advances by my family to make me go places and do "fun" things I really don't want to do because I'd rather be home, locked in my living room alone, making cartoons or something. I mean I quite LIKE Christmas but the need to spend all your money on buying things for people you can't afford is ludicrous.

Martin Willoughby said...

Veg: Spending money you can't afford at any time of year is ludicrous. Maybe we should form an 'stuff the xmas presents' club?

Michelle Davidson Argyle said...

Anti-library, hehe. Love it. :) I did a lot of this in college. It certainly got me far! :)

Martin Willoughby said...

Michelle: If it works, do it, if it doesn't work, hit it until it does.