Reading to Write

If you’re gonna write, you’re gonna have to read.

There are a lot of things to read. You want to absorb your own genre. You’ll likely be best at writing things that you enjoy reading, so get reading. Thankfully for me that involves reading a lot of fantasy and science fiction. I can handle that!

You’ll probably need to do some research. That can be fun and a lot of work, too. One story I’ve been hacking at for a while involves a mage who “bakes” spells. I know a little about modern baking, but what about baking in a medieval society? Ah, the internet is my friend!

But if you’re going to jump into the author thing, you’ll need to research not just how to write, but how to be an author. In the last couple weeks, I’ve read three books to further my journey. I started with Craig Martelle’s Become a Successful Indie Author and Successful Indie Author: Pricing Strategies 2020. Then I read Andrew Peterson’s Adorning the Dark.

You might guess by the titles that the two authors had very different goals in mind.

Martelle’s books are pure business books. They’re not about how to write better; they’re about how to sell what you’ve written. Become a Successful Indie Author frankly didn’t help me too much, but that’s also because I’ve been wading in these waters for a while. If someone is thinking about the author business with a mind toward making a living or even just making any money from what they create, and they’ve never really done any work to find out what that work is, this book would be indispensable. It sums up a lot of what I’ve learned already.

Pricing Strategies was way more helpful for me. Once you have a book, what should you price it at? This book doesn’t tell you what to do, but lays out a number of strategies and lets you decide what will work best for you. I learned quite a bit here. One of the big ones which should be a “duh!” but wasn’t for me: Check out what comparable books in your genre are priced. That’ll give you a baseline to go above or below, depending who you are and what your goal is.

Neither book was about art. They didn’t negate art. They didn’t say that art doesn’t matter. Both are handbooks for how to take what you create and make a living from it.

And then I came to Peterson’s book. Adorning the Dark is about art. It claims that whenever you create something, you must have Truth, Beauty, and Honesty. If you miss any of those three things, what you have is not worth sharing.

Peterson thinks deeply about art. The book really isn’t about writing. Peterson is a songwriter and an author, so he approaches creativity as a whole, not as a single way to create. He’s also deeply spiritual and not shy about it in the least.

When I started his book, I thought it would be “too deep.” I just want to tell stories, and I’d like to get paid for those stories. I’ve found that some creative people tend to really dig deep and think about creativity itself so much that it becomes this mystical process. Such a book really wouldn’t help me.

And there’s some of that in here. Peterson does think deeply about creativity. He writes from a deep well of yearning for a better place, and that spills over into every syllable of his book.

But the book also refreshed me. Writing is work. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. Whether you write fanfics or webcomics or novels, creating takes sweat. Martelle’s books were indispensable for those parts of writing that come after the writing is done. I’ve been focused on that aspect of writing for a while now.

So it was nice to come back and say, “Yes, that is important. But so is the craft. So is the art. Speak with Honesty. Speak with Truth. Speak with Beauty.”

So, please, if you’re going to write, go read. Read books in your genre. Go research. But also read books about writing. Research the craft itself. Learn how to take what you’ve created and take it to whatever your goal may be.

Creators of worlds, read.

Published by Jon

Jon lives in Kentucky with his wife and an insanity of children. (A group of children is called an insanity. Trust me.)

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