Allowing Yourself to Read, But to a Point and for a Point

I don’t know if other writers have this problem, but allowing myself to read has been difficult of late. Reading novels and short stories used to be one of my favorite pastimes, and it needs to become so again. Yet, when I find I have the time to read I worry that I should be writing, or at least brainstorming or doing research.

The problem is I can’t reconcile in my head that reading the particular genre I wish to write in does count as research, and it can aid in the brainstorming process. Ultimately, reading is what makes us better writers. At the very least it serves as inspiration, for most of us turn to writing after reading something particularly profound. For me I had always liked to write here and there, but it wasn’t until I played a game called Betrayal at Krondor and then picked up the newly-released Serpentwar Saga by Raymond Feist that I realized writing was what I wanted to do. I was 11 at the time, and suddenly found myself burning through the 382 page Shadow of a Dark Queen. I went on to read all of Feist’s Midkemia-based work that was out at the time, then moved on to Jordan’s Wheel of Time, Martin’s Song of Ice and Fire, Haydon’s Symphony of Ages, etc. In all these cases I could not put the books down and kept reading well into the wee hours of the morning just to see what happened next.

It’s a wonderful thing to be able to read a series as enthralling as these, but that could be where my fear lies. While there’s nothing wrong in reading for an hour or two a day before, during, or after the daily writing quota has been accomplished, it’s altogether another thing if you get sucked in to the point of losing productivity. On some subconscious level I must be worried that will happen the moment I start reading a story longer than 30 or 40 pages, and yet my goal is to ultimately write novel-length stories, and then novel-length stories in a series. If I wish to do this I need to go back and reread the series that got me into fantasy and science fiction in the first place, only this time with a writer’s eye. With the techniques that I am learning in David Farland’s Million Dollar Outlines and Drawing on the Power of Resonance in Writing I want to see which of these – if any – were employed in the series I love, to see how effective they are in practice.

With that said, I’ll be starting up my weekly goals in the next day or two, and I plan to update those goals as they are completed during the week. Reading both short stories and novels will be on that list, in addition to writing. The novels may have to wait for a couple of weeks, but I will at least narrow down which series I want to begin rereading, and then we’ll go from there.

For short stories, I need to broaden my horizons. I’ve been reading Daily Science Fiction a lot lately, but there are so many other great ezines out there (Strange Horizons, Lightspeed, Beneath Ceaseless Skies, to name just a few) that all need some attention, especially if they are places I wish to submit to. Before doing that, though, I think I will finish reading through my Writers of the Future anthologies that I’ve picked up here and there. Over the next few months I have several novelettes I wish to produce, and that tends to be what is accepted for that contest. If I’m going to write at that length, I should study the best available.

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