I remember hearing Stephen King tell this to a reporter one time who was interviewing him. He stated that the best writers are avid readers. At that time in my life I was not reading anything much other than daily political blogs and my Bible; that`s not the kind of reading Stephen King was referring to, he was referring to reading some good old fashion fiction.
I wanted so badly to be a writer. I wanted to be read more than anything else to include making money. I just wanted my words to touch other people’s lives. I wanted my writing to be something that could effect change. I know…my goals were quit lofty.
The biggest problem I faced was that even when I was a daily reader, I always read nonfiction. I have read every one of Napoleon Hill`s books. I read all of Tony Robbins and Robert Schuller. I read every political book I could get my hands on, but, I hated fiction. I did go through a phase while I was in the Navy were I read some westerns but that was about it for fiction. What was I gonna do?
My wife is an avid reader of fiction. She especially loves C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien. She began the search for fiction that I would read. It just so happens that she is a librarian *smiling*. First, she tried some of her own favorites—that didn`t work. Then, a few of the books she saw others checking out, you know, the most popular books from authors like James Patterson. Still no go. Finally, she just brought home some stuff like Ian Rand, Cormac McCarthy, and Lois Lowry. She knew that their best works had some political connotations. That seemed to work. I read “The Giver” by Lois Lowry and I liked it. It was a post-apocalyptic tale of a controlled society. Now, as a political junky, I could relate to that.
I started to get into the stories. Not only for the story, but also for the way the writers wrote them. I remember when I first read Cormac McCarthy. I was amazed at his almost arrogant defiance toward the reader. That is to say, he just did things his way—like it or not. Let me explain. McCarthy does not use parenthesis in his dialog. He dares to confuse the reader! I love it. I wonder if my college English 101 teacher ever read Cormac McCarthy? My God…it was sheer brilliance and freedom all wrapped up in a neat little package. I read his book “The Road” as well. The entire book is done in paragraphs—that are double spaced–with no chapter headings or separate chapters. Try sending that query to your local friendly literary agent. The point is that Cormac McCarthy writes for himself and his own satisfactions as a writer. Yes, I`m certain he wants his books to be read, but, he has a unique voice that is amazing and pure. I think it is quite possible that Cormac McCarthy would be another starving writer if he were to rely upon his style of syntax alone. The reason the man is a best-selling author is because of his ability to tell a story. Stories that were so good they became movies: All the pretty horses, No country for old men, and The Road.
If you look at James Patterson and his ability to write one book a month (tongue in cheek) it is in his ability to be so concise in his writing style. His sentences are simple—not many big words. Readers can almost scan the page and get the gist of the story. How can we learn to emulate the best authors—read their books.
One final note for those of you who are as neurotic as I am, you have to actually write as well as read. I know countless friends of mine (writers) who have great stories to tell, yet, they won`t take a chance. They are afraid to put their work up for criticism. The internet has provided the greatest opportunity for aspiring writers in the history of literature. Write something. Put it on a blog or some social networking site and see what happens. Take a chance on yourself. God bless–WP