Imagine with me this ehem, fictional scenario: You are supposed to be
cleaning, at a meeting, working, going to the gym, taking the dog for a walk, filing your taxes, driving your great aunt Susie to the dentist doing something and instead, you sneak off and stick your nostrils in a book.It’s a very good book, one you can’t put down.You are transported to other worlds (okay, if speculative or science fiction isn’t your thing shame on you! maybe you are transported to other locations or times in history … just hang with me, okay?). Your brain is tingling with new story ideas.But for a moment as your eyes drift greedily from word to word, you feel guilty.
I’m reading and should be writing!
The exclamation leaves your lips before you know it, other duties forgotten. Sure, there is something about reading the fantastic (and even the not so fantastic) words of others that makes us want to dash to our corner of the cave, grab the quill and papyrus, and get down to it.But, as Gabriela, our ever-intrepid Queen of Composition and Word Nerd In Chief reminds us, it is vital that we read as well! She offers four categories of texts that should be on our ‘To Be Read’ list:
- Competitive Titles: These are books in the same genre or category as ours, or that focus on a similar theme or subject matter.
- Contextual Materials: This is anything that helps to put our own writing into context. Contextual materials include research books and any other tidbits like films, music, or magazine articles. Books that use a similar storytelling technique to ours, like a particular point of view or literary device, fall into this category as well.
- Contemporary Books: Do you know what’s new (as in, what’s been published in the last three years) in your selected genre or category? Yep — that’s about as old as ‘contemporary’ gets these days …
- Classics: Yeah, this one may — depending on the category — sound the death knoll to our reading exploits. However, Gabriela teaches the art of DNF (Do Not Finish). If one book doesn’t resonate, quit reading it — there’s no law! There’s other stuff out there. We shouldn’t hurt ourselves trying to force through a text we find dreadful.
I would add that the books and materials you identify as part of any category above (except maybe ‘contextual’ … I know for me, those include news feeds, scientific articles, and so on — ‘real’ stuff) may be works by your fellow bloggers and self-published authors, in addition to NYT best-sellers. Just sayin’.Interested in creating your own list of ‘To Be Read’ books? Check out this nifty worksheet on which you can organize. Be sure to click on Gabriela’s name above to visit the DIY MFA book page — you’ll want to get your own copy, since it is full to the brim with all sorts of exercises and worksheets like this one.In the meantime, What’s on your reading list? What should be on it? What are you reading now?