Tuesday, 12 August 2008

Reading List

Recently, in her blog, fellow Doctor Who author Kelly Hale said that when she's writing something, she doesn't tend to read other books.

Different authors have different approaches - there's no right way and wrong way to do this - and I'm the exact opposite, throwing myself at crazy amounts of books.

Now, I quite understand a writer not reading while they are writing something of their own. But Kelly was celebrating the fact she'd finished writing and could get back to her stack of books. Any aspiring writer has to read, and read widely, for all sorts of reasons. You don't want to be able to boast, as Garth Marenghi does, that he's written more books than he's read.

Here's what I read in the four months or so I was writing The Eyeless, courtesy of the lovely and highly-recommended Library Thing website.

Reading List

Some of that is re-reading (I've lost count of the times I've read Name of the Rose, Kavalier and Clay and Casino Royale), very little of it is directly relevant to the book, some of those things are directly relevant to other things I'm working on. There are a couple of books in there that are pure research. And I was obviously on a James Bond and Iain Banks kick. Good luck trying to work out what The Eyeless is about from the list!


That Neil Guy said...

I was in the early stages of dating this amazing woman many many years ago when, in the midst of a phone conversation, on the way to making some point or other, I casually said to her, almost in parentheses, that of course to be a writer you have to be a reader -- where she stopped me cold and argued that point for the rest of the conversation. She thought you could be a great writer without ever having to read other books. I thought she was mad. The relationship soon fizzled. Ultimately, a good friend of mine ended up marrying her. Bless his heart. They later divorced. In retrospect, she wasn't so amazing after all.

That Neil Guy said...

Have you read Devil May Care yet? It's on my shelf but I haven't dived in yet.

Lance Parkin said...

Read it, loved it and my review's at:


Lance Parkin said...

Do you *have* to read a lot to be a good writer?

I think so, but I read a lot, so I would. I guess if you were writing something incredibly rooted in your own experience, you wouldn't have to read for research purposes ... but, surely, you'd still need to read to get a sense of perspective, to see what other people had done?

Ultimately, I think it's incredibly presumptuous and arrogant to try to get people to read your stuff if you don't read yourself.

The great musicians, the great filmmakers ... they *immerse* themselves in it. The thing that always impresses me about the musicians I know - the good ones, anyway - is that they have incredibly eclectic tastes, they have a keen interest in all music.

If you read great books, you learn from great books. Hell, you learn from the lousy ones, too. Anyone who thinks they're already such a great writer that they don't need to learn ... I think, by definition, they're wrong.

They say you can never be too rich or too thin. Well, I'm not the exception to prove the rule, put it that way. But I'd add another: you can never have read enough books.

Mark Clapham said...

Kavalier and Clay is a wonderful book, but you found time to *re*-read it? That's a lot of time you have on your hands.

Also, Mason and Dixon took me around six to eight years to read, on and off.

Great restraint in linking the name Garth Marenghi to a youtube clip, and not http://beasthouse-lm2.blogspot.com/.


Lance Parkin said...

'Great restraint in linking the name Garth Marenghi to a youtube clip, and not http://beasthouse-lm2.blogspot.com/.'

The thought never even occurred to me <---- THIS IS A LIE

Nicholas Jackson said...

Gosh. When you said you read a lot of books, I believed you, but I didn't quite realise you meant that many. So far this year I've read 34 books (plus some mathematics papers and a load of comics), which I guess means I'm hovering somewhere around 20% of your reading rate. I'm impressed.

SK said...

I'd love to be able to keep reading while working on something, but when trying to juggle writing with a day job and a social life, something has to give. So it's not a deliberate choice so much as forced on me by necessity (I still watch TV, but that's because TV is less involving: I can watch a TV programme for an hour and then stop, whereas if I start reading a novel I might just get lost and not surface until it's far too late to do any writing). I have a bookmark halfway through Norwegian Wood that has been there since I started working on my current project and I despair of moving it forward until I either finish or give up.

I dream that if I ever were able to become a full-time writer, I would be able to read and write at the same time.

Garpu said...

Do you find that reading helps get the creative juices flowing? Normally I don't like to listen to a lot of music when I'm working on a piece (I'm a composer), but every once and awhile the right piece of music can spark what I'm working on. (As was the case with NIN"s "Ghosts I-IV.")

And having a wide variety of interests is so true. The cliche that a composer only listens to the genre he/she writes is tiresome.

Anonymous said...

I've found that my writing - what little I've done - is rather chameleonic: it takes on some of the essence of the popular culture I'm immersed in at the time. This has a tendency to result in rather second-rate pastiche. So if I were writing a major work, I think I'd try to avoid reading for the duration - or, if I couldn't stop myself, I'd try to read eclecticly.