Get Started Writing: Reading List
For this blog series, we're looking at the steps I like to go through at the beginning of a writing project. We talked about collecting and reviewing content, and creating character templates focused on goals and motivations to help keep the story line on track, once we get to it.
We will not be getting to "it" (writing) this week. Instead, I want to talk about creating a reading list. Who doesn't love a good pile of books, old or new? And no one can tell me to stop buying because having all these books is absolutely necessary. As authors, we have to understanding our genre, to understand what readers are looking for, and a start toward pinpointing the correct demographic to make sure we're choosing the right vocabulary, level of maturity, and this even helps us with target marketing.
I know everyone wants to be unique. And please, be unique. But not too much. The Creative Curve by Allen Gannet outlines exactly how familiar you need to be, and why, in order to be successful. People crave the familiar and are often turned off by something too new. At the same time, they'll walk away from something overdone and outdated. By reading current publications in your genre at your age demographic, you will be able to make sure you're creating a story enough like what readers are expecting that will help them immediately engage.
This is where my reading list comes in, which can happen at any point before or during the start of the writing process. Not wanting to lose a great story idea, I'll start buying books that spark a similar chord to the generic inkling I have going. Not only does this help with spreading out the reading time of these books, it helps percolate the idea before I get to the character sketches or world development. That being said, those ideas are few and far between, and this step is not negotiable as mentioned above, so often the collection starts after or during the other two phases we already talked about.
So, what to collect? Is it about Fae? Then collect books with fae characters. Is it a fairytale retelling? Does it have pirates and are they Johhny Depp inspired or Peter Pan lookalikes? Fantasy or romance? Make sure your genres match, or are really close. Then those books go on the list. As I collect, I try to keep this part of the list to around 3-5 books or more, depending on their length and popularity. I'm also careful to chose books as close to my own idea as possible, because otherwise the list could get out of control, and I won't have the information I want on hand.
Collecting these books is not with the idea of copying anything, but it gleaning more content ideas outside my own collection of partial works we looked at a few weeks ago in order to ensure I'm developing my idea within the creative curve. This part of the book list helps build up an idea of what readers are interested in, what style of writing is popular, a peek over the shoulders of other writers I don't have the ability to call up to have a chat with. This list is also a prelude to the dreaded (I'm not the only one who dreads this part, right?) title comparisons that are expected when you're ready to share your work with the world. But, I don't stop collecting there.
I'll go deeper into my story, as well, and look at the smaller arcs that may not be genre specific. Are there any books I've read or heard about that generate the same type of relationships I'm trying to create? What about a magic system I really enjoyed reading about that I'd like to be inspired by. I'll even find books that describe scenery, or introduce a new character so beautifully, or open their novel in a way that positively gripped me. Those books also go on the list, even if it's just for one scene or one story arc. For this part of the list, I don't cap myself because it's about the creation of content as opposed to the inspiration for it, and any help gained from learning to craft is 100% beneficial.
Which brings us to crafting books - except it doesn't, because those are on a completely different list, and a topic for a different blog post.
Whether you're a beginner or have long since started, has any of this struck home with you? What pre-writing set up do you work on, or are you a dive right in writer? Anything you'd like me to elaborate on, or a different topic you'd like me to blog about? I'd love to hear from you in the comments.
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