A Writer’s Reading Plan

TalesfromShakespeareA writer reads. Always. And a smart writer often develops a reading plan to ensure that a helpful variety of books comes under the eye.

My own problem with reading sometimes comes from the fact that watching television is free, once you’ve paid for a television and the satellite or cable bill, and getting a new book means paying for a new book. Even a library book costs you for the trip to the library.

My earliest reading plan began around the sixth grade when I decided to read some of the ‘great books’.  The next year, my parents got me out of the public school hell and into San Jose Christian School. My seventh grade teacher had a daily reading period in which we were to read from her list of great books. I know one of the books on the list was Oliver Twist. I spent a lot of time on the book, reading it over and over again,  because if I admitted I was finished I would have to write a book report. Eventually I wrote the report and moved on to another book on the list, Tales from Shakespeare by Charles and Mary Lamb. It is a wonderful book which retells the Shakespeare plays in Shakespeare-like language.

Other reading plans were more like mad obsessions with a genre, an author, or a nonfictional topic. It is so much easier to read things you are enthusiastic about. But it has the hazard that you may cut yourself off from what you should be reading. I mean, if you are an author of Harlequin romances and you read only other people’s Harlequin romances, you are missing out on the better literature that the other Harlequin authors may be reading to bring their fiction up to a higher level.

For the past few years I haven’t been reading enough, in part due to poor household lighting and the resulting eyestrain. Last year I began reading more poetry books. I got some of the short poetry books from Dover publications— I’m currently reading Selected Poems by Emily Dickenson— and also something called Zombie Haiku, which is actually a short novel in the form of a series of haiku written by someone who became a zombie.

I’ve decided to make more trips to the local library, even though the selection is small there. I even did my first interlibrary loan to get a book of sijo poetry I had wanted to read. (It’s very difficult to find books of sijo poetry in English.) I don’t usually decide in advance what type of book to read, since at a small library there are not a lot of choices and I have to be open to what is there.

In the past, I have read deeply into some nonfiction topics which can be useful to writers. I’ve read a great deal of history of different countries and eras. I have also read a lot of books on homesteading and pioneer skills, which are handy for writing any fiction in which characters have and use such skills.

The main thing I plan to do is to spend less time in the evening watching television and more time reading. For this to work, I  will have to figure out how to get more light into the area of my reading light so reading is possible at night. I may get an old combination lamp-table rewired. It’s perfect as a reading light and the cats who can’t fit in my lap while I’m reading can lie on the table.



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