Story of a Writer is the honest story of my journey from a very young and inexperienced writer to the writer I am today, with comments from my present perspective on what did--and what didn't--work so well in my writing journey.
June 13, 1999 [10 years old]
I’m crazy over Redwall. I’m listening to it on tape and I just think it is the GREATEST! I’m finished writing the Storm Foe. Now I’m starting Enemy of Beauty.
June 30, 1999
I finished reading the book Martin the Warrior, that I started yesterday, which is like 2 inches thick!
August 13, 1999
If you want to be a good writer, you have to read. And read. And read. And read.
My favorite author is C. S. Lewis. He was the most well-read man of his time. He had a personal library with thousands of books and he had read every single one of them. He read science, history, biography, poetry, fiction, and non-fiction. He became one of the most influential writers of the century, and his works to be influential, even though he died in 1962.
I honestly believe that his secret to success lay partially in his broad experience with many types of books and many styles of writing.
Most authors today make the mistake of reading only books that they think they will enjoy. If I had done that, I would not only have missed reading some fantastic stories, but I would have also missed the unique and fascinating ideas that these stories generated, and which I then turned into stories of my own.
My uncle has a large personal library and, from time to time, he sends me and my family books from his library. One time, he and I spoke on the phone, and he asked what types of books I liked to read. I began to explain my preferences, and then I stopped myself.
“You know what? Just send me something that you would like to share. I don’t want to read only books that I think I will like. Even the books that I’ve hated have helped me to develop my philosophy of writing. I’ve had to think: Why do I dislike this style or this content? What makes it ineffective for me? What would make it more enjoyable or more effective? How can I avoid this pitfall in my own writing? So don’t send me stories that will tickle my fancy. Send me stories that will challenge me to become a better writer.”
So my uncle sent me stories. Some of them were hits and some of them were misses, but all of them developed me as a writer.
If you are writer, you can’t afford not to read. If you don’t have time to read, you don’t have time to write. Don’t make excuses; make a reading list. Set yourself goals—perhaps something like “I’m going to read one book a month”—and then accomplish them. I guarantee you, it is not time better spent writing. It is time that will make your writing time all the more productive.