Thursday, January 21, 2010

Writer’s Block: Reading Published Books & Literary Journals

This is the third post in a series on Writer’s Block. One of the most important things that a writer can do is read, read and read some more.

Sometimes beginning writers will say, “I don’t read because I don’t want to be influenced.” This is wrong because you *do* want to be influenced. By writing, you are joining into a conversation that reaches beyond eras, cultures and even languages. You want to not only be influenced, but to respond to the content and style of writing by working to create something new yourself.

Read as a writer. It is important to read and pay attention to how a book was crafted. For example, if you are reading fiction, notice where and how the chapters end. If you are reading poetry, notice how the poems are ordered. If you are considering publishing, notice the author, editor, publisher and agent. This will be useful information in the long run.

Poets often publish their first book by entering into a contest for first books. It is a good idea to read the first books that a press has published to get a sense of what interests them.

If you are working on getting your first book published, read the first books that authors you admire published. It is helpful to compare and contrast the writing style to the later books and notice how the author has developed with subsequent books.

You should also be reading and buying literary magazines. I don’t often encourage you to spend money, but literary magazines and small presses are often mostly run by volunteers. They need and depend on the income. Start at your local bookstore and read through the literary magazines they offer. Often, smaller literary magazines won’t be found in bookstores. I recommend that you look up your favorite literary magazines and see what other magazines they link to. It is a large community and they work hard to support each other. I’ll offer more information on how to find literary magazines in the next post on submitting your work for publication.

Read widely. For example, poets should be reading nonfiction and fiction authors should read biographies. Ask friends with different recommendations and take risks in your reading. Yes, you should read the classics and the authors you admire. You should also stretch your imagination and knowledge of the world. Writers don’t only need to know how to write. They also need to know their subject.

Tomorrow, I’ll blog about some places where you can find publishing opportunities. The research and knowledge that you will have from reading widely will help you.

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